ST. GEORGE — Following news that a bill moving through the Utah Legislature to drop ‘Dixie’ from Dixie State University’s name came into doubt Thursday evening, additional information was presented to St. George News that could indicate at least some Utah senators never intended to hear the bill on the floor.
As originally reported Thursday by St. George News, reports surfaced that the proposed legislation was effectively killed in a closed meeting of Utah Republican senators.
The bill, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, designated HB 278, passed through the Utah House of Representatives on Feb. 10 in a 51-20 vote. It was received by and introduced in the Senate Wednesday, and its last location was the Senate Rules Committee.
But an email communication between St. George News reader David Rasmussen and Washington County Sen. Don Ipson dated Jan. 21 indicates that the Senate had likely decided before it even reached the House floor that it would not consider the bill.
Rasmussen told St. George News he had been following the name change issue very closely and had been doing a lot of research. Following a January forum hosted by the Dixie State University Institute of Politics, Rasmussen wrote to Ipson expressing his support for the name change.
The email response from Ipson said the following:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. While I respect your perspective, I am personally supportive of keeping the name. I have discussed this issue with my colleagues in the Senate and shared the feedback I am hearing from constituents. Based on these conversations, it does not seem likely that we will consider legislation dealing with this issue this session.
After Thursday’s report that the bill had been killed behind closed doors, Ipson told the Associated Press that negotiations around the bill are ongoing but it is unclear if an agreement will be reached before the session ends.
“The community is not ready to give up the name by and large,” Ipson told reporters in the AP story.
While many in the Southern Utah community have expressed support for keeping the name “Dixie” in the institution, the Senate came under fire in the AP report by the left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Utah for not bringing it to the floor for a vote in the public eye.
Lauren Simpson, with the group, said lawmakers are “standing in the way of progress and inclusivity” by not hearing the bill.
“If Senators wish to kill the bill, they should have the courage to do it publicly with a vote,” Simpson said in a written statement.
“People have to know they never had any intention of thinking about it,” he said. “I think it is a little disingenuous to lead people along and not even tell the University they were not going to consider it.”
At the time of this report, multiple attempts by St. George News to reach Ipson have gone unanswered.
On Monday, Dixie State issued a statement in support of students and alumni:
Dixie State University is encouraged that the Utah Senate is working on HB 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University. The University is prepared to work with senators to support our students and prepare our alumni for rewarding careers all while honoring the Southern Utah heritage; however, we are concerned that we have not heard specific proposals to strengthen the bill and the end of the session is rapidly approaching.
Discussions regarding the Dixie State name have been ongoing for decades, and it is now clear that the name is creating measurable and widespread negative impacts on our students, alumni, and institution. Out of respect for our students and the hard work they put into earning their degrees, the University feels it is paramount that the bill is heard on the senate floor this year.
This recommendation has been unanimously supported by the DSU Student Association Executive Council, University Council, President’s Cabinet, Board of Trustees, the Utah Board of Higher Education, each college and university president from the Utah System of Higher Education System, and a veto-proof majority of the Utah House of Representatives. Additionally, Governor Cox publicly shared his support for this bill.
As an institution of higher education, we have a deep responsibility to look out for our students’ continued success and appreciate the Senate’s dedication to Utah’s future workforce. We look forward to working with our senators as they work to bring this bill to the Senate floor.
Update, Feb. 22, 4:08 p.m., The statement issued by Dixie State University was added.
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