ST. GEORGE -- The St. George City Council passed a resolution Thursday saying it wants "Dixie" to remain part of the name of a college that is expected to soon attain university status.
The St. George Spectrum reports that council members voted unanimously in declaring they want the word "Dixie" to remain part of Dixie State College's name once it attains university status. The resolution recognizes Dixie as a symbol of the regions pioneer heritage. Critics say the moniker carries negative, Deep South connotations and should be removed.
Dixie State College got its name after Mormon settlers, primarily from the South, tried to turn the warm region into a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.
"Dixie is the single-most important term for the branding of Dixie State College," Councilwoman Gail Bunker read Thursday from the resolution.
The City Council joins several other public entities that have waded into the name debate that heated up last year as the St. George school sought to become recognized as a university. The Spectrum reports Utah's college and university system officials plan to meet this month to recommend the college be granted university status.
About 10,000 students attend classes at the St. George campus, which features a statue of Confederate soldiers and only recently retired the Rebel as its school mascot.
Those who want to keep the name or a variation of it say Dixie is part of Utah's heritage and doesn't have racial subtext among those who have long known the area as "Utah's Dixie."
Councilman Jon Pike said the name "means different things to different people," and keeping it, which he supports, will require further explanation that Dixie has its own history in Utah.
"We need to be sensitive and be aware there are people who are confused about the name, and we have to say that's not wrong, that they are confused, but we have to explain it," he said.
Pike is also a member of the Dixie State College Board of Trustees.
A firm hired to research the name is to release a recommendation during a final public forum on Jan. 9, the newspaper reported.
Other names that have come into consideration in recent months are Zion University, Utah Southwestern University, Red Rock University and St. George University.