ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State University name recommendation committee kicked off the first of several town halls Tuesday night.
Julie Beck, chair of the newly appointed committee, held the informal meeting on campus to gather input from the community. The evening was the first opportunity for the public to express their concerns and share ideas about changing the name of the institution since the establishing of the committee on Thursday.
Beck and several of the other 18 members of the committee attended the town hall, which was co-hosted and advertised by the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition. Beck started the meeting by sharing why she decided to accept the role of chairperson.
“I’m here because I love you, I love this place and I love the experience,” she said. “You need to know me, that I’m here in good faith to help all of us with an important process.”
Eighteen coalition members spoke to Beck and the committee about their concerns, all of whom were in favor of keeping the name “Dixie.” Many expressed distrust in the university’s methods of collecting and sharing data that led to the name change process legislation and said they were offended by the misconceptions of what “Dixie” means and that they did not feel heard.
“You have painted us with a sloppy white brush,” attendee Richard Miles said, “and never allowed us the opportunity to explain that our Dixie spirit stands from our predecessors’ shared sacrifice that preserved this institution for the first 60 years and result in love, a school and community that exists now because of that.”
Another attendee, George Staheli, said that the Cicero report, which the university published in December, did not include accurate information. For example, the report states that 33% of people in Washington County associate the word “Dixie” with the Confederacy, which Staheli said is not true.
“It’s dishonest, and I hate to say this and I didn’t want to, because educators should be honest,” he said. “And because they put so much faith in that Cicero report, it should be brought out to the public and explained.”
The town hall will be followed in the coming weeks by various opportunities for the public to give input on the name change. A public survey is expected to launch next week on Dixie State’s website, where anyone who wants to participate can give feedback to the committee. The survey will be accessible for one week, Beck said. After that, a series of formal town halls and more than 40 focus groups will follow. The town halls will provide opportunities for various groups to discuss their opinions. Beck said she expects to see a lot of activity in May.
Once the committee has heard from the community and chosen a final name recommendation, it will present it to the Dixie State Board of Trustees, with a tentative deadline of June 14.
Editor’s note: Information clarifying that this meeting was co-hosted and advertised by the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition has been added.
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