SALT LAKE CITY — If all goes as expected, Utah lawmakers will be addressing a name change for Dixie State University in their 2022 General Session.
Senate President Stuart Adams, addressing reporters Tuesday, said the bill calls for a public process and then for the university trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education to make a recommendation to the Legislative Management Committee no later than Nov. 1.
Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, who is now the Senate floor sponsor of the latest version of HB278, predicts the name Dixie will remain on the campus in some capacity.
“I think it probably will in some fashion. … That’s what the heritage part of the bill is for, so the community doesn’t lose the heritage and the namesake,” he said.
Ipson was asked whether he was pleased with the latest version of the Dixie State bill, and responding to reporters’ questions, said, “As you probably noticed, I’m the sponsor. I think that says it all.”
Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, was Senate floor sponsor of the bill’s original version. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Kelly Miles, R-South Ogden. Miles is co-chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
The Senate Education Committee voted 6-1 in support of the revised bill and sent it to the Utah Senate for consideration. The Senate is scheduled to debate the bill at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The revised bill requires no particular name and does not preclude the name Dixie. The original bill, passed by the Utah House of Representatives on a vote of 51-20, said the new name could not include Dixie.
The new language says if university trustees and the state higher education board forward a name to lawmakers that does not include the term Dixie, the trustees “shall all establish a heritage committee to identify and implement strategies to preserve the heritage, culture and history of the region on the campus of the institution, including the regional significance of the term ‘Dixie.’”
The revised bill includes a one-time $500,000 appropriations request to assist the preservation efforts of the heritage committee.
Adams, R-Layton, praised Ipson for his work to ensure the process stays on track but provides an opportunity for a public process.
“Sen. Ipson has always been a real advocate for giving the people some time and I think this bill does both. It keeps the schedule going that brings it back. … It gives the community this year to try to have more time to think about it which is, I think, a great compromise. He’s done a phenomenal job balancing this out. Just a super job, senator,” Adams said.
Supporters of the bill say the name Dixie is harming students as they seek graduate school admission and employment.
Opponents say a name change is akin to cancel culture and does not respect the history of early Latter-day Saint settlers of the area.