DSC Trustees unanimous: University status, ‘Dixie State University;’ STGnews videocast

Steven Caplin (standing), chair of the Dixie State College Board of Trustees, addresses the board before voting, St. George, Utah, Jan. 18, 2013 | Photo by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The board of trustees of Dixie State College of Utah voted unanimously today on resolutions to approve university status and the new name of the institution – Dixie State University – to be recommended to the state board of regents. A formal acknowledgement was also made concerning Confederate symbols used in the school’s past.

University status

“Our collective dream of obtaining university status is about to come true,” DSC President Stephen Nadauld said as he addressed the trustees and all gathered. He said the college had experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, and the college itself had achieved all the benchmarks necessary for university status.

DSC’s student enrollment has increased by 60 percent, he said, and with it new degrees and programs, which has helped lead the college to where it is now. He also thanked everyone who had been involved in the process to university status – from students and faculty to the trustees and local and state political leaders.

“It’s an amazing thing that we have gotten to this point,” trustee Max Rose said.

Fellow trustee, Gail Smith, said, “I’m so excited and honored to (vote on) this resolution.”

The vote for university status was universal and without question, and received with cheers and a standing ovation.

Story continues below

Excerpts from meeting of the board of trustees of Dixie State College of Utah in which resolutions were made for university status and new name recommendation to Utah Board of Regents, Dixie State College of Utah, St. George, Utah, Jan. 18, 2012 | Videocast by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News

The name

“Part of this university transition called for a new institutional name,” Nadauld said.

Three month ago the process of determining the new name began under the lead of “an independent third party,” he said, that being Sorenson Advertising  A third party was used to make sure the process was “as open and transparent as possible, while at the same time engaging all of our stakeholders and ensuring that everyone that had an opinion about the new name of the university was heard.”

Citing the data presented by Sorenson Advertising and a healthy level of debate over the matter, Chairman of the Board Steven Caplin presented Dixie State University as the name to be voted upon.

Before a vote was made, Jon Pike, vice chair of the board of trustees, said a joint resolution has been passed by the Washington County Commission, and the city councils of St. George, Santa Clara, Ivins, Hurricane and Leeds, supporting Dixie remaining in the new name. Washington and LaVerkin city councils will vote on the same resolution in upcoming meetings.

Each city “wanted to weigh in and honor the name Dixie,” Pike said.

Not everyone was pleased with the name, however. Brody Mikesell, a trustee and DSC student body president, gave a tear-filled statement concerning the issue.

“I’ve been very outspoken about the removal of Dixie,” he said. “… The student voice is overwhelmingly for Dixie State University, and it tears me apart to vote that way.”

Though Mikesell said he would vote in favor of the majority-favored name, he added it was important to remember and acknowledge the 17 percent of students identified by Sorenson Advertising who did not agree with Dixie’s retention.

His also said his vote was meant to signify unity moving forward.

“It’s important to recognize different points of views on this matter,” Caplin said. He also praised Mikesell for his example and leadership as student body student.

Both Pike and Rose also acknowledged that other views should be respected, but also said neither of them had personally witnessed examples of bigotry in the area first hand.

“In 44 years … I have never seen a case where we can be accused of being racist,” Rose said.

The vote was then called and unanimously passed, and once again the board’s resolution was met with cheers and clapping.

Following the vote, Caplin read a prepared statement from the board.

An acknowledgement

“Regarding the name of our university,” Caplin read, “the board of trustees studied the issue with intensity.”

The trustees had looked at the data presented by Sorenson Advertising and considered the merit of the top name recommendations but,in the end, Dixie State University was the name favored by the stakeholders.

Caplin said: “In the end the board chose to unite as one body. We unanimously stand behind the Dixie State University name and encourage all stakeholders to do the same.”

He also said neither the trustees nor the school administration were aware of any incidents of racism in the school’s past, and firmly condemn racism and discrimination. Dixie promotes diversity, equality and educational opportunity for everyone. He added Dixie’s minority enrollment had also doubled within the last five years.

“We acknowledge that Confederate symbols were once used by the student body,” Caplin said. Those symbols were introduced in the 1950s as a part of the college’s sports program and no racism was intended by them.  Those symbols have since been “retired” from the college, he said.

“These symbols are part of our past, but not our origin,” Caplin said.

In a press conference following the meeting, it was asked why the college only acknowledged the Confederate symbols, yet did not issue an apology to those offended by them.

Dixie State made the acknowledgment and retired the symbols, Caplin said. It was time to move past the issue and rally around the school’s becoming a university.

The issue of students in the past holding mock slave auctions and wearing blackface was brought up as well, to which David Clark, another trustee, said such behavior was not unique to Dixie during that time period.

It is time to celebrate Dixie State becoming a university, Clark said, not to look to the past. “We’re happy to move on,” he said.

Still, some in attendance at the trustees meeting were not happy with the vote.

Roi Wilkins said he felt the acknowledgement was simply more sweeping the issue under the rug than coming and out and “owning up to it.”

“That’s not cool with most people,” he said.

“Sometimes you have to fight the battle twice to win,” Manny Aguilar said. He said he and others who represent minority interests in the area had won once already by getting the statue of the Confederate soldiers removed.

Aguilar said he also felt the discussion over the Dixie name was very one-sided, and that a more national, and not local, survey of the name should have been done. The company hired to do the study should have been from out of state as well, and not from Utah.

“Why not look outside the box?” he said.

Despite lingering controversy surrounding the name, Dixie State University will be presented to the state Board of Regents for a vote on Jan. 25, and then to the state legislature for final approval.

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  • Dan Lester January 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I’m glad that Mr. Mikesell acknowledged the students who don’t like the name, and also acknowledged that only one in six don’t like it. As is the American way, the majority rules. And he did his duty representing his student constituency by voting for what the majority of students wanted.

  • UrbanDeserter January 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I agree, the survey should have had a much wider audience than just locals and students. But it is what it is. If the name Dixie is so offensive, it’s hard to believe that nearly 9,000 students attend from all over world.

  • Dan Lester January 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    One more thought that may not be too peripheral to this discussion. The local Democrats are holding an Inaugural Gala on Monday night to celebrate President Obama’s second term. Do you suppose Mr. Obama will be offended because it is being held at the Dixie Center? Considering the funds that will be raised for the party, I’ll bet that he won’t be.

  • Washington County Resident January 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I am happy for the people from here and those that will remain here for the possibility of keeping Dixie in the name! As for the final
    vote, it is not a done deal. We do find that recently the minority (%) does have a bigger vote than the percentages dictate. It’s not over until the fat lady sings…oh I forgot I can’t use that anymore!

  • SoUtahADC January 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    The majority in the US did not support the Civil Rights movement either. Because the majority wants it, it doesn’t mean it is right.

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