A protest took place on Monday morning on the campus of Dixie State University (DSU) in Utah, as demonstrators gathered in opposition to the school’s proposed name change. Students and community members rallied to convince the institution that the name was an important part of the area’s history and identity.
According to former Dixie State student and organizer of the event, Kanton Vause, the protest was organized to express the positive connotation the word held for the community.
“It represents our identity and our culture and our history. We’re proud of it, we love it, and we want other people to know that we’re not looking for a fight; We just want to be able to practice and live and celebrate what we are and who we are,” he told St. George News.
The first day of the spring semester at Dixie State University kicked off with a protest led by Southern Utah’s heritage group regarding the Board of Trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education voting to change the name.
— Dixie Sun News (@DixieSunNews) January 12, 2021
Local attorney and protestor, Troy Blanchard, declared in a speech to fellow protestors that claims concerning how graduates had difficulty finding jobs due to the name of the university were false.
“How many people reported they had trouble getting a job? Twelve … They want to change the name based on that,” he said.
The university decided to change the name after a two-month review by a management consulting firm commissioned by DSU. It was found that 22 percent of graduates surveyed said that their employers voiced concerns upon finding the university on their resumes. In addition, 54 percent of faculty and staff as well as 52 percent of alumni believed that continuing to use the term “Dixie” would be harmful to the institution.
Peaceful Encounters With Counter Protestors
While counter protestors holding signs in favor of the name change occupied the corner opposite the protestors, exchanges between them were peaceful.
Counter protestor Spider Porter told St. George News that he supported the name change because “It’s history that doesn’t connect to Utah as strongly as they might suggest.”
The term “Dixie” was coined for the university in honor of former residents of the South who settled in the area during the 1850s. However, due to its connotations suggesting slavery exploited for cotton production, the name has fallen into disfavor with many.