SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Southern Utah’s Dixie State University should change its name to Utah Tech University, the board of trustees voted Tuesday after the school’s previous name recommendation faced backlash and confusion.
The board voted unanimously to drop the earlier recommendation of Utah Polytechnic State University after it was widely mocked online and some critics voiced confusion over the term “polytechnic.”
“It’s clear that Utah Polytechnic State University was an epic failure, and we are willing to admit that,” board vice chairwoman Tiffany Wilson said at the meeting.
A name change committee recommended the previous name two weeks earlier as part of a yearlong effort to drop the Dixie name, which is associated with the Deep South and slavery. The recommendation came after a national outcry against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The recommendation will go to state boards in the coming months before being weighed by a legislative committee. If it’s rejected, the committee will work to pick another name.
The push to change the name of the university in St. George, near the Arizona border, has faced backlash from those who say the term is important to the area’s heritage and is separate from the history of slavery. At least 100 pro-Dixie protesters were at the board’s Tuesday meeting, many of whom wore red shirts that said “Keep Dixie.”
The local nickname “Dixie” dates to when settlers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tried to make it a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.
The committee began meeting and studying possible new names in March, under a process outlined in a bill Gov. Spencer Cox signed earlier this year. The committee collected feedback from students, university employees, community members and a public survey before voting to remove Dixie from the name.
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.