Some recent graduates of a public university in Utah said they had discovered lately that the name of their alma mater was alienating prospective employers by sending the wrong message.
The name speaks not of academic excellence, powdery ski slopes or rugged national parks, but rather of the Confederacy and slavery.
So on Monday, the university, Dixie State, formally proposed changing its name.
It became the latest notable example of an institution abandoning its longtime name in a year of reckoning for cities, states, sports teams, makers of household products and even musical acts.
The university, which is in St. George and has more than 12,000 students, announced that its board of trustees, along with the faculty senate and student executive council, had recommended to the state that the word “Dixie” be dropped from its name. The university did not put forward a new name.
“We started to receive evidence that our name was beginning to be problematic,” Richard B. Williams, the university’s president, said in a video message posted on the its website. “Students reported that the name was hindering their employment opportunities.”
The state Board of Higher Education must approve the university’s name change. It was not immediately clear when the panel would take up the proposal. A spokeswoman for the state’s higher education system did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.
The university traces its name to the 1850s, when 38 families of settlers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sought to turn the region into a cotton-growing hub. Many of them came from the South, and the region in southwestern Utah became known as Dixie.
The university, which is about 300 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, began as St. George Stake Academy in 1911 and has used several variations of the word “Dixie” in its name over the decades, becoming Dixie Academy in 1913 and Dixie State University in 2013, according to a timeline on the university’s website. Before 2013, it was known as Dixie State College of Utah.
“We understand that this decision will be positive for some while extremely difficult for others,” Mr. Williams said in the video.
Supporters of the name change said that the reckoning by the university, one that has grown its enrollment by 41 percent during the past five years, was overdue.
“I have been trying to get them to change the name for years,” Jeanetta Williams, the president of the Salt Lake branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said in an interview on Monday night. “It was totally resisted.”
Ms. Williams said that the association of the word “Dixie” with bigotry and oppression was undeniable.
“You’re talking slavery,” she said. “We’re talking about the Civil War.”
The announcement followed a two-month-long review of the university’s name by the Cicero Group, a management consulting firm commissioned by Dixie State University, according to a copy of the report that was posted on the university’s website.
About 20 percent of recent graduates who were surveyed for the report said that they had received negative feedback from prospective out-of-state employers about the name of the university on their résumés.
“At the core of this discussion is one simple truth: There are different meanings for the word ‘Dixie,’” said Mr. Williams, the university’s president. “Locally, the term ‘Dixie’ is widely accepted, understood and cherished. Outside of the region, the meaning is much different and does not encompass inclusion and acceptance.”
Mr. Williams continued that the university’s name had hampered recruitment opportunities and had caused some licensing partners to refuse to carry the university’s merchandise. It had also prompted some lenders to refuse to bid on projects, he said.
“Despite how any of us feel personally, we have received overwhelming evidence that our name is not serving the best interests of our students, particularly recent graduates applying for jobs,” he said.
Source by www.nytimes.com