SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah House on Wednesday voted in support of Dixie State University dropping “Dixie” from its name — an example of the nation’s reexamination of the remnants of the Confederacy and slavery.
Dixie State University, which is located about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City in St. George, recommended the name change after reviewing the results of a study that showed some employers in other states expressed concern about the Dixie name on graduates’ resumes. It also said nearly two-thirds of people in the college’s recruiting region associate the name Dixie with the Confederacy.
The university’s board of trustees voted for a name change in December, which was then supported by the higher education board.
Dixie State had faced scrutiny in the past over its name but had resisted changing it. The area was nicknamed Dixie, a reference to Southern states, when settlers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of them from the South, tried to make it a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.
Supporters say the name is important to the area’s heritage and is separate from the history of slavery. But efforts across the U.S. to remove monuments, names and other Confederate symbols have intensified during the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice.
In the wake of the nation’s racial reckoning this summer, institutions throughout St. George have started to reconsider the Dixie name. In July, hospital officials announced that Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center, located in southern Utah, would change its name to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital, effective in January.
Dixie State has taken other steps in recent years to remove Confederate imagery. In 2009, the school’s nickname was changed from the Rebels to Red Storm. A statue depicting a soldier on a horseback waving a Confederate flag with one hand and reaching out to a wounded soldier with the other was removed in 2012.
In 2013, a group of students, faculty and activists unsuccessfully pushed for a name change. The board unanimously voted to retain the name after a survey found broad local support.
The bill will now move to the Senate. The university has not chosen a new name yet.