Santa Clara City approves declaration opposing name change process for Dixie State University

ST. GEORGE — Santa Clara City Council voted at the Wednesday meeting to approve a declaration opposing the proposed name change of Dixie State University. 

Following a unanimous vote in December by the Utah Board of Higher Education to change the name, legislation was drafted and is currently making its way through the Utah Legislature outlining a process for changing the university’s name.

The process includes requiring the Dixie State Board of Trustees and the state Board of Higher Education to select a new name for the institution and recommend it to the state Legislature.

After discussion of the issue at last week’s Santa Clara City Council work meeting and drafting the declaration, council voted unanimously to approve it Wednesday. 

The declaration states the following:

We, the City Council of Santa Clara City, have listened to the various arguments in both the public forums, including social media from the various sides of this controversy. We urge the Utah legislature to reject HB 278 and any other legislature during this Session of the Utah Legislature that is intended to remove the word ‘Dixie’ from the name of what is currently Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. 

Approval of the declaration came just hours after HB 278 passed in the Utah House with a 51-20 vote.

“Following what our legislators did today, we need to slow down this process and look a little more closely at local control and that’s what this is saying as well,” council member Jarett Waite said. “Let’s reject this bill and we’ll work on it later.”

Councilor Ben Shakespeare agreed, citing meetings he attended when removing the university’s mascot the Rebel was being discussed over a decade ago. 

“It was stated multiple times that ‘Dixie’ was never a part of the removal process, that it was only the Rebel,” he said. “This has never been a racial topic of any part if you read back through history. … I do agree that we need to slow this down because it needs to be thought through.”

Council member Wendell Gubler added that the name “Dixie” reaches farther than the university. Many businesses and buildings in Southern Utah also use the name, he said, and removing the name from those places would create a longer process. 

HB 278 will now move to the Senate, and if it passes, a new name for the institution will not be finalized until late this year or early 2022.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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