UTAH TECH TRAILBLAZERS

Name Change: WSU Chief Diversity Officer Says To Ask ‘Who Is Dixie For Now?’

Jul 7, 2020, 1:47 PM
Dixie State University...
(Courtesy of Dixie State University)
(Courtesy of Dixie State University)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Weber State’s Chief Diversity Officer Adrienne Andrews said, “We have to ask ourselves when Dixie (State University) was built, who was it built for?” and “who is Dixie for now?”

In addition to serving as Chief Diversity Officer, Andrews is the Assistant Vice President for Diversity at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

She recently joined Alex Kirry and Ethan Millard on KSL NewsRadio’s Nightside Project to discuss Dixie State University and recent discussions on whether the school should be renamed.

“The Dixie narrative no longer fits Dixie State University,” Andrews said. “The optics are different.”

Should Dixie State change its name?

After years of resisting calls to change, Dixie State is reportedly considering a name change amid the renewed focus on racial injustice and effort to reexamine Confederate symbols and monuments in the United States.

The name “Dixie” has been a part of the school since 1913. The word “Dixie” is also painted on a large red rock near the university.

Currently, Dixie State has no “formal process in place” to change the school’s name but “is closely monitoring this situation, actively gathering information and assessing all viable options to ensure our campus is a welcoming environment for all.”

On July 1, the school released a statement regarding its name:

“There is a widely embraced, local sentiment toward the word Dixie that represents the rich pioneering heritage of sacrifice, determination and generosity of our early settlers. The unwavering dedication of our founders and community paved the way to make Dixie State the flourishing University it is today. We respect the regional meaning of Dixie adopted by many, describing the local heritage and honoring the men and women who settled the beautiful St. George area. Additionally, we understand that to many others, the term Dixie stirs negative connotations associated with discrimination and intolerance.”

Andrews highlighted that the school nor the public isn’t the lone decision-maker if the university were to be renamed.

“We don’t get to decide if Dixie State changes its name. In fact, Dixie doesn’t get to decide if it changes its name. The Utah State Legislature decides what their name will be and they do that with input from the Utah Board of Higher Education,” Andrews highlighted.

So, it’s not an arm jerk reaction of making a name change but it will be a process that we get a lot of weight in,” David Woolstenhulme, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, recently said. “What’s most important for me is that we make the best decision for the community and for the students.”

The Chief Diversity Officer continued by saying that in addition to asking about a name change, people should ask, “what does it mean to say Dixie?”

“Should they change their name? Let’s ask ourselves what does it mean to say Dixie?” Andrews asked. “In Utah when the environment was called Utah Dixie, it was red clay. It was a place where you could grow cotton. There was very much a feeling of the South. That South did not include the slavery of the American South right? But it was a small community. A small school. Now times change. Populations boom. The institution goes from being an academy to a college to being a university and so does that name on a global standard meet the values of the institution? I’m gonna say they’re probably not in alignment. So changing the name would not be a horrible thing in my book.”

Andrews highlighted other cultural changes due to a similar context.

“Most recently in the last few weeks, Mississippi is changing their state flag… to get rid of the rebel corner of the flag because that did not represent who Mississippi is today,” Andrews said. “In 2003, Georgia did the same thing. Changed their state flag because that was not who they were now.”

She continued by saying that the university’s name should reflect what it stands for in 2020 and into the future.

“We have to ask ourselves when Dixie was built, who was it built for? It may not have been built for black and brown people. It may not have been built for women,” Andrews said. “Who is Dixie for now? Dixie is an open enrollment, inclusive institution offering amazing degrees.”

Click here to listen to Adrienne Andrews’ full interview with Nightside Project.

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