To: Sen. McKell, M.,
Subject: Message from Dixie State President Biff Williams
Attachments: DSU_Name Impact Study.pdf , DSU_Name Recommendation Fact Sheet.pdf , Body:
I am writing today to add one more voice to the hundreds you have recently heard from as it relates to the Dixie State University Board of Trustees’ and Utah Board of Higher Education’s unanimous decisions to recommend a name change for Dixie State University. As you approach the 2021 general session, I wanted you to hear directly from me, as the president of Dixie State University, about the impacts this decision will have on our students, institution, community, and state.
First, you should know that I respect the local meaning of Dixie that represents our regional heritage. It is in honor of our founders’ trailblazing spirit of service and sacrifice that our institution has proudly carried the Dixie moniker for many years. But as the leader of a state university, I am confronted with another reality: the name Dixie has more than one meaning. It is because of these dual meanings that conversations about the “Dixie” name have been ongoing for decades—long before the “cancel culture” mentality rose to prevalence.
During my six years as President at DSU, I’ve been contacted by many students and graduates who have explained that the “Dixie” name is confusing or even off-putting to employers. Many of them have reached out to share their perspective. I ask that you take a moment to watch this short video that shares their personal experiences. Faculty and staff have explained how the term’s reputation hurts their ability to share research and promote DSU. Licensing and financial entities have refused to partner with us. Potential new faculty hires have turned down our offers because of our name.
It was with these issues in mind that DSU commissioned an impact study on the positive and negative effects of retaining the word “Dixie” in our institutional name. The experiences and opinions of more than 3,000 stakeholders from our region, state, and recruiting areas were measured. Key findings include:
- 22% of recent graduates looking for jobs outside of Utah have had an employer express concern with the name Dixie on their résumé
- 42% of respondents from our recruiting region and 22% of respondents from Utah say the name makes them less likely to attend DSU
- 52% of recent alumni who live outside of the state feel the name has a negative impact on the brand
- 17% of our community members, 38% of Utahns, and 52% of people outside of the state feel uncomfortable wearing Dixie State apparel outside of Utah.
Our campus means many things to many people, but at our core, we are here to prepare students for careers in today’s economy. The reality that the name of our institution is making that task more difficult is what guided Dixie State University’s Student Executive Council, Board of Trustees, University Council and my cabinet as well as the Utah State Board of Higher Education to unanimously recommend a name change.
As we have seen firsthand since our Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of a name-change recommendation, the impact of this decision is further reaching than the borders of Washington County. Within a week of announcing the board’s recommendation, 652 media outlets across 36 states shared this news with their collective 4 billion audience members. Major national media outlets have asked us to keep them apprised of our next steps.
Going forward, our request is for the legislature to direct DSU to begin a process to select a new name in collaboration with all stakeholders, including our community. Some have asked why we are referring the issue to you prior to selecting a new name. Community leaders have made clear to us that in order to move forward with a collaborative name selection process, we first must address whether the name will change. We have separated these processes deliberately to ensure proper consideration is given to each decision.
I look forward to visiting with each of you further in the coming weeks. I have attached a copy of the full report from the impact study as well as a handout with additional information. I hope you will also take a moment to watch the video linked above. Please contact me with any questions or concerns. Additionally, Cicero Group, who conducted the impact study, will provide a brief presentation and Q&A session to any interested members of the legislature tomorrow, Jan. 14, at 11:00am. If you are unavailable tomorrow, they will provide another presentation next Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 4:00pm. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 4:00pm. I encourage you to join one of these meetings to learn more about the study’s findings.
Thank you for your time and interest in helping us prepare Utah students for future success.
Richard B. Williams
Dixie State University
Jan. 14 Cicero Group Zoom Presentation: https://dixiestate.zoom.us/j/86858170365
Jan. 20 Cicero Group Zoom Presentation: https://dixiestate.zoom.us/j/89548908390
Assistant to the President
Government & Community Relations
Dixie State University
225 S 700 E, St. George, UT 84770
Office: (435) 652-7511 | Cell: (435) 359-3125