To: Sen. McKell, M.,
Subject: Please protect my students. Change the Dixie name.
My name is Del Beatty, and I am currently the Dean of Students at Dixie State University. I’ve been employed full time in the USHE system (SUU, USU and DSU) since 1991, and I’m honored to have worked at DSU for the past 12 years. I love this institution, our students, our mission, and our future. I always hoped my career would lead me here.
However, more importantly, I am a proud graduate of Dixie State, I was a student body officer here in the late 1980’s, I married the Dixie Homecoming Queen, my oldest son is currently a DSU English Professor, my son-in-law is a graduate of Dixie, my daughter is also a DSU graduate who was Miss Dixie State and went on to win Miss Utah and compete for Miss America! My middle son is currently enrolled at DSU, where he is a student body officer, a member of our performance/recruitment team Raging Red, and my youngest son (only 14 years old) can’t wait to be a Trailblazer!
I tell you all of this to only demonstrate there may not be a family anywhere who is more connected, or who possesses, a deeper love for this institution than we do. When Dixie became a university in 2013 (8 years ago) there was heated discussion about changing the name. At that time, I was adamantly opposed to changing it, and so I lobbied and asked the students to support me in actively working to keep the name Dixie. It was the incorrect decision. I was wrong.
Since then, I have educated myself. I have had meaningful conversations with several students about how hurtful and alienating the word Dixie is -- not here in Southern Utah of course -- but once you leave this area. As a Dean of Students, whose job is to advocate, support, and care for our current students, I ask for your help in also supporting them by voting in favor of a name change. A vote against changing the Dixie name, is a vote to purposefully hurt our students… to make the future more difficult for them.
I know in recent weeks you have received dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of letters from older alumni -- asking you to not support a name change. Many of those who’ve contacted you are my friends and relatives. But I ask you… what effect will a name change have on them? None. They will still have their Dixie memories (as will I), a Dixie diploma, and an appreciation for the Dixie Spirit that has existed for decades. Keeping the name won’t have any effect on their careers, admittance to graduate school, or landing the job they’ve always dreamed of. However, it WILL affect the students who are here now and who desire those same things. We live in a different world, we know better… or least we should.
In the early 1970’s SkyWest changed their name from Dixie Airlines to SkyWest Airlines. Why? Because on a national scale, no one would suspect that Dixie Airlines would be based in Utah. SkyWest needed national recognition… they needed clarity. This is exactly the same thing we need now at DSU and why we must change our name. We need people to know who we are, where we are located, and that we are inclusive and accepting or ALL types of students. Local businesses in the area do not need to remove Dixie from their name – as they are just that – local businesses. They didn’t mistakenly tie their image to confederate symbols like we did. As I mentioned, I was a student in the late 1980’s and back then I didn’t think twice about the confederate flag as my school symbol or Rodney Rebel as my mascot. But now I know better.
DSU has become a national brand. We are the newest Division 1 institution with expanding and attractive academic programs in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. We need people to know who we are, where we are located, and we cannot continue to promote geographic confusion, or link ourselves in any way to the confederacy. These terms and symbols are hurtful and unkind.
My own views and perspectives about the name have dramatically changed in the past eight years. I’ve educated myself. I’ve looked into the eyes of students and seen pain and frustration because of the word Dixie. A vote to keep Dixie in our institutional name, sends a national message that in Utah we are out-of-touch, uneducated, and unfeeling. It is the wrong thing to do. Please protect my current students, and vote in favor of changing our name.
Del W. Beatty, M.Ed
Interim VP & Dean of Students
Dixie State University