ST. GEORGE, Utah -- A statue of Confederate soldiers on the campus of Dixie State College of Utah has been removed amid a controversy over the school's planned name change as it becomes a university.
The statue, which was in front of the Burns Arena, was lifted out of place on Thursday afternoon while school officials decide what to do with it. It has been the scene of protests as the school considers a name change that could end with the name "Dixie" being dropped.
A school spokesman told FOX 13 they were concerned about vandalism or theft.
"At the end of the day, we felt it was in our best interest to take it down, to protect it, and to move on to more important matters like gaining university status," said Dixie State College of Utah spokesman Steve Johnson.
The discussion over Dixie State's new name has turned heated. At a public forum last week, more than a hundred people showed up to either defend the "Dixie" name or encourage school officials to reject it. Supporters say it is part of Utah's heritage, dating back to Mormon pioneers who founded the St. George area to plant cotton. Opponents decry it as a relic of Civil War-era racism.
Since the mid-1990s, Dixie State College has phased out some of its Confederate-themed images and mascots, including changing the "Rebel" mascot in favor of the current "Red Storm."
On campus Thursday, some students cheered the removal of the Confederate soldiers.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Ryan Mayfield. "It's a new day in Dixie's history."