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Utah education board votes in favor of college name change

December 18, 2020 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Board of Higher Education unanimously voted Friday in support of Dixie State University dropping “Dixie” from its name — an example of the nation’s reexamination of the remnants of the Confederacy and slavery.

Dixie State University’s Board of Trustees voted for a name change on Monday, which was then supported by the higher education board, the Deseret News reported.

Dixie State, located in St. George about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, recommended the name change after reviewing the results of a study that showed some employers in other states expressed concern about the Dixie name on graduates’ resumes. It also said nearly two-thirds of people in the college’s recruiting region associate the name Dixie with the Confederacy.

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Institutions throughout St. George have begun reconsidering the Dixie name in the wake of the nation’s racial reckoning this summer. In July, hospital officials announced that Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center, located in southern Utah, would change its name to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital, effective in January.

The university had faced scrutiny in the past over its name but had resisted changing it. 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.

Dixie State has taken steps in recent years to remove some Confederate imagery. In 2009, the school’s nickname was changed from the Rebels to Red Storm. A statue depicting a soldier on a horseback waving a Confederate flag with one hand and reaching out to a wounded soldier with the other was removed in 2012.

In 2013, a group of students, faculty and activists unsuccessfully pushed for a name change. The board unanimously voted to retain the name after a survey found broad local support.

The final decision must come from the Republican-controlled state Legislature. The university has not chosen a new name yet.