To: Sen. McKell, M.,
Subject: Message from Dixie State's Brand Manager
I know you have received countless emails regarding the Dixie State University name, but I hope to unpack some of the facts from the fiction as the person who is directly over the DSU brand and has been creating, monitoring, building, promoting, and protecting this brand for many years.
I love that people are passionate about our institution. That type of brand enthusiasm is something we wouldn't change for anything, and you can include me as one of the most ardent supporters of the brand. However, the name has been and is becoming increasingly problematic, but many have no desire to listen and to learn what is truly happening, and particularly how the name is impacting our students. Emotions have run high on this topic for upwards of 30 years, but that is why we need our elected leaders to look at the big picture, and to do what is in best interest of the institution, students, and the State of Utah for the last time.
I hope you have had a chance to look at the Cicero impact study, and you may question if there are issues with the name at all. Support for the name remains high among many; however, as a branding and marketing expert, both professionally and academically, I can assure you that the data signifies HUGE red flags that will seriously damage the reputations of our school, students, and state if immediate and decisive actions are not taken. The impact study was not a popularity vote, it was created to measure the overall impacts of keeping or eliminating the name Dixie. If the study was designed to see if locals like or dislike the name Dixie, we could have saved a lot of time and money, but it was much, much more than that. A name should have near 100% acceptance by stakeholders. If you asked a Weber graduate if the name Weber is offensive, or if they would wear a Weber shirt, you could assume that nearly everyone would support the name itself.
However, we learned 47% of our recent grads won’t wear our clothes outside of the region due to the name, 22% of prospective students in Utah won’t attend due to the name, 54% of our employees and 36% of our students feel the name will have a negative impact moving forward, and more. Many of these participants are among our greatest supporters; however, of all the groups measured, at least 1 in 4 have issues or concerns with the name, including those in Washington County. THIS IS NOT NORMAL FOR A BRAND NAME. If any other organization received this data, they would not even hold a meeting if they could avoid it, the name would simply be changed as soon as possible.
We have done everything in our power to tell the Dixie story and to share what the local meaning represents. But we cannot compete with every history book in America that describe Dixie as the Antebellum South that is firmly tied to the losing side of the Civil War. It simply can’t be done. When we were a small regional school, it wasn't a problem. But now we live in one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and are one of the fastest-growing schools in the country. It is not fair to put the responsibility of explaining the local meaning of the word on our students for the rest of their lives.
In addition, the national media is waiting and watching to see what is going to happen with this bill. Upon making our name change recommendation in December of 2020, 700 media outlets picked up the story, with a reach of 4 billion people, and a total ad revenue equivalency of $45 million in three days. Only more media coverage has followed, and these outlets are all waiting to see how this story ends. I can assure you, that journalists know of our history with the Confederate South, they know that the data shows it is hurting students, and they will be very interested in knowing why Utah did not change this name, and frankly, we won’t have a strong reason as to why. I know this personally, because I have been doing my best to share this story for years, but it is getting harder and harder to tell.
In closing, this is not about change culture, politics, or a secret plan to destroy history. It is not a local popularity contest for a name. Simply put, it is about our students, our future success, and an incredibly ambiguous name that will never improve. It isn't anyone's fault, but this is an inevitable decision, and the sooner we make it, the sooner we can build, mend, and heal. You have my solemn promise that we will do everything in our power to honor our history but allow us to do what is in all our best interests by choosing now to change the university name to something that will lift and reach for all. God bless you and thank you so much for your time and for your service to our state.