Dixie must drop name to join U

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Dixie State College in Southern Utah might become the University of Utah, St. George, but some local residents and trustees are unhappy about losing the “Dixie” name and turning over the school’s autonomy to the U.

Dixie State trustees asked the U to join the schools in early September. U Board of Trustees Chair Randy Dryer said the U would be excited to merge the two schools and help with curricula and programs, but it would have to be done according to certain conditions, which would include changing the name and having the school’s chancellor report to U President Michael Young. Shandon Gubler, chair of the Dixie State Board of Trustees, said two trustees have expressed concern over these conditions, but the rest are supportive. The Dixie name pays tribute to Southern Utah’s pioneer heritage and attempts by early pioneers to grow cotton.

Both Gubler and Dryer said they will continue to lead discussions about how to create an affiliation between the U and Dixie State through a task force comprised of administrators from both schools.

Dixie residents voiced their concerns at a meeting held in St. George on Nov. 2, but Dryer said these dissenters represented a “vocal minority.” He said keeping the word “Dixie” in the name would make it harder for the U to compete on a national and global level.

“To anyone outside Utah, Dixie has a connotation of the deep South, with confederacy, slavery and racism,” Dryer said. “People in St. George say this is Utah’s Dixie, which is different, referring to pioneer (heritage) and growing cotton, but requires a lot of explanation. Those aren’t some bags we want to incur.”

In a letter sent to the Dixie trustees on Oct. 22, Dryer wrote that calling the school the University of Utah in Utah’s Dixie would be unlikely to generate sufficient support to accomplish goals and would, in all likelihood, prove fatal as the trustees seek to project this new institution on a larger, national stage.

Gubler said if the merger were approved, they would refer to the campus as the “Dixie campus” but leave it out of the official name. The school would be able to keep its traditions, such as having the letter “D” on the mountain.

“There are some very good people down here who love this school very much,” Gubler said. “They really want this to happen, but there would be some changes it would require and it takes some time to process (them).”

Gubler said the majority of the trustees are fine with the conditions the U has set.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “It would be a tremendous progress in education for the state of Utah.”

Steve Caplin, who has served as a Dixie trustee for two years, has formally withdrawn his support of the plan until the U becomes more accommodating with its conditions of governance. He said he is concerned with what would happen to the autonomy, independence and representation of Dixie State College if it became part of the U.

“We’ve always wanted to retain independence as a separate institution, including the ability to self-govern ourselves like other institutions in the state,” Caplin said. “For Dixie to go from being an independent member of the Utah System of Higher Education to being a satellite campus is a big change.”

Under the U’s conditions, the U would have direct policy, financial and administrative control over Dixie State College. Instead of reporting to the Board of Regents, they would report to Young.

“I worry about us not remaining on par with the system, without the checks and balances that come from being in the system,” he said, calling the plan more of an “acquisition” than a merger.

Instead of this plan, Caplin suggested that the U expand the number of degrees it offers on the Dixie campus, by adding more graduate degrees and also including bachelor’s degrees. For the past two years, the U has offered three graduate programs at Dixie, which Dryer said could be expanded.

The U Board of Trustees will discuss the affiliation at their next meeting on Nov. 12.

Dryer said both schools are evaluating the proposal and it could be a year before decisions are made and recommendations are given to the Regents.

“People are getting excited prematurely,” Dryer said.

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