To: Sen. McKell, M.,
Subject: Request Concerning the Vote to Rename Dixie State University
I am a tenured Assistant Professor of English at Dixie State University and am writing to ask that you vote in favor of removing “Dixie” from the Dixie State University name.
While I recognize and respect that some members of our community and descendants of the pioneer settlers of the area wish to honor their heritage, I believe the word “Dixie” carries too many negative associations, including slavery, racism, and treason, among others. I find the name change particularly urgent in light of the recent violent insurrection at our nation’s Capitol on January 6th, where multiple “Dixie” flags flew above the chaos.
First and foremost, I care about our students—not only about their academic success, but also about their ability to obtain, upon graduation, psychically and financially rewarding careers. The data obtained in the Cicero Group study clearly shows that the school’s name has the potential to adversely affect students’ potential for employment. In my time at DSU, I have taught many first-generation college students who come from economically challenged backgrounds. To fulfill the University’s mission, I believe it is our duty to provide students with every opportunity to rise above their socioeconomic challenges by helping them obtain degrees and career experience in the form of internships that will lead to professions. Anything that may subvert that goal, which includes a name may be off-putting to potential employers, should be eliminated.
As a faculty member, I also see it as my role to increase the visibility and stature of our University. DSU is in the process of moving beyond its reputation as a community college and “party school,” toward a low-cost, high quality polytechnic institution. As our enrollment continues to climb, I have seen an increasing number of out-of-state students, many of whom are students of color. If we wish to build a national reputation as an open and inclusive University, the name must change. Many, many students, particularly those Black and Brown, have confided to me that they are very uncomfortable with the “Dixie” moniker and devastated by black face, slave auctions, and celebration of the Confederacy in old newspaper and yearbook photos. Sadly, as a consequence, I can attest that several of these students have transferred to different universities.
Opportunities I have planned for my students, such as attempting to secure visiting writers and scholars of color, have been thwarted by the “Dixie” name. Furthermore, my professional reputation has also been damaged as a consequence of it. For example, my work in the field of African American Literature has been rejected by journals and conference organizers as a result of the appearance of “Dixie” on my CV and biographical information. If not outright disgust, the name also causes confusion about our geographical location and prompts interest and questions neither about my work or the work of our institution, but about the name itself. Again, I see it as part of my job to recruit students and promote all of the wonderful things about DSU. But unfortunately, the name continues to be a serious obstacle.
I stand with my University’s students, faculty, and staff. I stand with DSU’s Board of Trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education. Please, please consider a vote to change our institution’s name. We can honor our region and its people in so many other ways. Let’s make Washington County and St. George the open, warm, inclusive, and welcoming place it should be. It is time to change the name.
Cindy King, Ph.D.