Utah institutions move away from ‘Dixie,’ but locals split

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) – Some institutions in southern Utah are moving away from the name Dixie because of its ties to the confederacy. The hospital will have a new name in 2021 and the university could be next, if the state Legislature passes a bill to do so.

But there are also efforts within the community to keep the name around, and they’re hoping legislators will listen to them, KUER reported.

Troy Blanchard is one of the leaders of the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition, and their motto is “stand up for Dixie.” He said he knows it will be an uphill battle to keep the name of the university, since a change was unanimously recommended by the board of trustees and state board of higher education.

But he said he has hope southern Utah legislators will listen to their constituents.

“We don’t have a lot of representation in southern Utah,” Blanchard said. “The hope is that the legislators will stand up and the majority of them (have) appeared to.”

He said for this to succeed though, it will have to be a grassroots movement with wide community support. In a recent survey commissioned by the university about the name “Dixie,” almost 80% of residents think it should stay the same.

The area was nicknamed Dixie, a reference to Southern states, when settlers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of them from the South, tried to make it into a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.

Supporters say the name is important to the area’s heritage and is separate from the history of slavery. But efforts across the U.S. to remove monuments, names and other Confederate symbols have intensified during the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice.

University officials have recognized the importance of the name to local residents. But officials cite survey results that show the negative impact the name has on students and out-of-state recruiting.

St. George resident Ilene Hacker has started a GoFundMe campaign raising money to appeal to legislators. She has long ties to the area and she said she feels like removing Dixie is removing the community’s heritage.

“I know it’s an emotional issue, but for me, it feels like they would slam the door in the face of the community,” said Hacker, who is also part of the group that’s trying to keep Dixie around. “We don’t think anything’s wrong with the name, plus we love the name, so why would we ever want to change it?”

She said they could hire a lobbyist if necessary, but they’re focused on encouraging people to write to their legislators and are planning a car rally from southern Utah to the Utah State Capitol when the general session starts in January.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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