ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Dixie State College of Utah is expected to soon become a university and, with it, a name change.
But whether that name includes "Dixie" is the subject of intense debate here, as dozens packed a meeting on Thursday night to argue the value of it. Some believe it is deeply tied to Utah's pioneer history, when Mormon settlers came here to plant cotton.
"In order to honor our founders, we need to keep the name 'Dixie,'" a woman told the crowd to applause.
Others say it is a tired relic of the past with roots in slavery, racism and the Civil War confederacy.
"If you condone racial ignorance and condone a confederate soldier on campus, then I think there's something wrong with the world today," said Roi Wilkins, a student at Dixie State College who wants the name "Dixie" gone.
Speaking to the crowd, Wilkins held up pictures from old Dixie College yearbooks, then called "The Confederate" with white students performing skits in blackface and erecting confederate flags on campus.
The student body president of Dixie State College of Utah said he believes it is time for the name to go. But others said time has erased racial wounds as the college as progressed.
"We have a lot of history," said Linda Johnston. "A lot of respect and honoring everyone that came from the south and our ancestors that came, saying that this is a good place to plant cotton in our area."
The school has gone through many name changes, from St. George Stake Academy in 1911 to the Dixie Normal College in 1913; Dixie Junior Academy in 1923; Dixie College in 1970; and finally Dixie State College of Utah in 2000.
The school has also faced some controversy over its name and one of the school's mascots, Rodney Rebel, an old Confederate-style soldier that it abandoned in 2009 in favor of "The Red Storm."
Some of the names being considered include:
- Dixie Southwestern University
- Dixie University
- Utah Dixie University
- St. George University
- Zion University
- Dixie State University
- Dixie University of Utah
- Red Rock University of Dixie
- Utah Southwestern University
It is widely expected that the Utah Board of Regents will approve Dixie State College of Utah's request for university status at its January meeting. Another public meeting on the name change is scheduled for January 9. A new name is expected to be unveiled by the end of that month.
The soon-to-be university has a lot at stake, both in community support and alumni dollars. Some alumni told FOX 13 they were reconsidering their future donations if "Dixie" were to be removed. Erik Sorenson, with the advertising agency helping to coordinate the name change, said they were aware of the delicate situation the name change presents.
"There certainly are economic factors either way," he said. "Whether or not certain aspects of the name are in there could offend or sway one group or another and there's a possibility of a loss of support so that's why were being so meticulous and careful to weigh everything."
Also, give us your take on what the new name should be by participating in FOX 13's web poll below: