“Dixie” supporters, other critics of the university’s name change protest against the proposed “Utah Polytechnic State” – St George News


ST. GEORGEIn response to the proposed name change for Dixie State University to Utah Polytechnic State University, hundreds of Southern Utah natives, Dixie State students and other stakeholders gathered in protest on the university campus on Wednesday evening.

Protesters arrived by the hundreds, most in support of keeping “Dixie” on behalf of the school, St. George, Utah, June 23, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

The crowd gathered on a lawn near a memorial to the area’s founders to attend the protest, led by Quinton Read, a student athlete from Dixie State, who said he was inspired to organize the event when he found that the opinions of several groups were correct are being ignored.

“We want the administration to listen to what people say: the students and the community,” Read said. “We just have the feeling that people weren’t heard. A kind of connection break occurs here. “

The university announced on June 14 that Utah Polytechnic State University 11-3 had been approved by a naming recommendation committee. The proposed name is pending approval or rejection by the Dixie State University Board of Trustees.

After meeting with members of the naming recommendation committee Wednesday, Read assured protesters that their efforts have not gone unnoticed, saying that he believes the university is already changing its stance and favoring something closer to “Utah Tech.” .

“There are two camps: there is the ‘keep the name’ camp, but then there is a very large part of the people who are against the name they proposed and agree to change the name,” said Read opposite St. George News. “Personally, I like Dixie State, but I think the reason we didn’t represent much of the second group today is because they are mostly students and the students are not here.”

Quinton Read, far right, stands next to the Julian family, St. George, Utah, June 23, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

According to officials from the state of Dixie, the university has been seeking input from students at every step of the process.

“Of the 14,000+ respondents, 23% were college students and 35% were alumni,” said Stacy Schmidt, deputy public relations director. “Of the 50+ focus group discussions, a number of student groups such as student athletes, members of student associations, members of alumni associations and student groups as a whole were included.”

In addition, says Schmidt, the naming process committee has two student representatives.

Some students criticized the polls, saying that they felt compelled to choose a variation of “Utah” and “Tech” while ignoring other descriptors such as “desert”, “desert” or “Zion”.

“I think we should change it, but I don’t think we should change it in UPSU,” said Catherine West, a Dixie State student. “I think the polls could have been done a little better. In one part of the survey, you had to select names from Utah Tech. I think UMAC (University Messaging and Communication) needs to take a step back and really evaluate what the student body wants, maybe choose a new name and try again. “

Speakers at Wednesday’s protest included Read and Julia Marble, enrolled students; Mitch Wilkinson, a singing alumnus; Janet Campbell, a longtime teacher; Jessica and Addison Hildebrandt, local business owners; Haley Caplin, a parent and alumna; and Tim Anderson, an attorney who has worked with higher institutions for many years.

Each of the speakers gave reasons for their resistance, went into the history of “Dixie” as a region and identification feature of the school and asked the demonstrators to express their feelings by email to the board of trustees.

Protesters gathered on the lawn in front of the Kenneth M. Gardner building near the Dixie State Clock Tower, St. George, Utah, June 23, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Thick clouds that threatened rain dissolved at the beginning of the demonstration, allowing participants to enjoy a cooler evening than usual. The participants came as individuals, with families or in groups of friends, with lots of sporty red Dixie t-shirts and waving red Dixie flags.

“I feel like the turnout was pretty good: we had a lot of parishioners,” Read said. “There weren’t as many as if the students were in town. That was an important factor in this whole name change thing: They tried to do this while the students were gone. “

Opponents of the entire name change process were people of all ages and origins, with the majority of “Dixie” supporters being long-term residents and alumni of the past decades.

Lee and Carol Bunnell went to the protest to oppose any name change and asked why someone would want to change a name that “has existed for a hundred years”.

“I taught here for 33 years,” said Lee Bunnell. “I was a football coach for nine years. I think the newcomers are the ones who oppose it, and I think the students who said they had trouble getting a job because of the name probably weren’t qualified in the first place. I just don’t think that’s a legitimate reason. “

A view of the assembled protesters from the balcony of the nearby Kenneth M. Gardner Student Center, St. George, Utah, June 23, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Others, including Jillene Kirkland, never attended Dixie State University. Nonetheless, she said that “Dixie” means something unique to the Southern Utah people and holds a special place in their hearts.

“For me, it’s a heritage thing,” said Kirkland. “I feel like the pioneers who came here worked so hard for their existence. I just feel like Dixie is a lovely name for us and has nothing to do with racism. We hope they keep the name. “

The few in attendance who were in favor of a name change but against the Utah Polytechnic State University were mostly young and members of the student body.

Gabriel Ennis and Claire Schermerhorn took part in the protest as a tribute to “UPS-U” and forged the initials of the recommendation and their similarity to the parcel delivery service UPS. In addition to the couple’s antics, many protesters arrived with cardboard boxes to poke fun at the initials of the proposed name.

“I really don’t like the name Utah Polytechnic State University,” said Ennis. “It’s muzzle, it’s verbose, and I don’t think it represents the university as a whole.”

Gabriel Ennis and Claire Schermerhorn used the protest as an opportunity to poke fun at the proposed name of St. George, Utah, June 23, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Both Ennis and Schermerhorn agreed that student contributions were largely ignored, and Schermerhorn in particular found other names more popular and more appropriate as a substitute.

“Actually, I think the change is okay, but I would have preferred Deseret State University,” says Schermerhorn. “I think the acronym and keeping the ‘D’ on the mountain would be important to me.”

The protest was organized with significant support from Zion Live Events, with the company providing sound systems and helping to plan the ceremony. Read acted as moderator of the event, gave the opening message and introduced the speakers.

As the meeting drew to a close, retired St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur reached out to the assembled crowd and led the group in a region-specific version of the song “Are You From Dixie.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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