ST. GEORGE What started as the Dixie State College task force, assigned to research an affiliation proposal that would meld DSC with the University of Utah, is now being called the transition team.
The group's new name emerged during a short presentation on its progress with its U. counterparts. DSC vice president of academic services Donna Dillingham-Evans heads the team, which also includes Stan Plewe and Frank Lojko.
And while a name change on such a fundamental level probably doesn't make a difference in the process itself, it is indicative of the public relations miscues that have plagued the college as it tries to align itself with the U.
Under the proposal, which has been endorsed by the DSC and U. boards of trustees, Dixie State College would become the University of Utah-St. George. The name Dixie would be dropped, as would the nickname the Rebels, in favor of referring locally to the U.'s St. George location as the Dixie campus.
Hundreds of Dixie alumni and donors objected to stripping Dixie from the school's official name, with some people threatening to pull their financial support of the institution if the name wasn't reconsidered.
Those in support of the name change said "Dixie" connotes slavery, the Confederacy and the Deep South, while those opposing the change said that in Utah, Dixie simply refers to southern Utah's pioneer heritage and its early role as a cotton mission.
The name issue surfaced again at Friday's meeting of the DSC board of trustees when President Lee Caldwell shared his thinking about an "Institutional Identity Task Force" that he hopes will bring the college and community together to reflect on its future.
"As we affiliate with the University of Utah, it is more important to formalize our traditions," Caldwell said. "The charge is three-fold, but the most important thing we can pass on are the values and virtues we want this institution to stand for."
Local historian/author Lyman Hafen and former DSC president and historian Doug Alder will head the transition team. Members of the community, alumni association, student government, athletic department, faculty and staff are also needed to serve, the president said.
"Before discussions begin to develop a new athletic nickname or brand names or logos are developed, it is critical that the college and the community reflect deeply upon the essence of the 'Dixie Spirit,' the history of the region and the college, the traditions, and most importantly the values," Caldwell said.
DSC trustee and alumni association president Mark Gubler said he has heard from numerous alumni who would like to include the Dixie name when the school renames the school's mascot.
"It would help with the community," Gubler said.
But DSC trustee Chris Roybal, who lives in Salt Lake City, said people outside of the local community "can't quite figure out why this name 'Dixie' ended up in southern Utah."
"I think there may be some way to capture the history and tradition of the area without using that name," Roybal said.
Another issue still to be resolved is the question of governance. Under the proposal, the U's president would have full financial and administrative control over the college. DSC trustee Steve Caplin said he withdrew his support of the current proposal because it has evolved into an "acquisition" of DSC by the U.
"The acquisition approach means Dixie would become a subsidiary of the Salt Lake City campus and lose its status as an independent member of the Utah higher education system," Caplin wrote in a position statement he prepared in direct response to the many questions he has received from members of the community regarding his stance.
"My concept of an affiliation has always been that each institution would remain autonomous and that each would bring its best assets to a joint venture dedicated to providing more educational opportunities to the market area served by Dixie State College," Caplin said, adding he still fully supports an affiliation with the U., but in a different relationship.
Fellow DSC trustee and student body president Jennifer Shakespeare has expressed similar concerns in revoking her support for the proposal.
Caplin suggests an alternative that would create a "University of Utah Center" on the campus of Dixie State College. The university center approach would allow each institution to remain independent of each other while exploring enhanced partnership vehicles, he said.
"Launching the University of Utah Center would not preclude other institutions, especially Southern Utah University and Utah State University, from offering select programs (bachelor and graduate) through their own university centers on the campus of Dixie State," Caplin suggests. "Such an approach should presumably reduce system-wide resistance to the U. of U.-St. George concept."
That idea has some merit, said SUU President Mike Benson, who this week traveled to Kanab to host an open house with area residents interested in taking advanced courses from the university.
"It (the DSC/U. of U. proposal) is not a done deal. Our role, as we see it at this point, is to stay out of the discussion," Benson said. "While I am not in any way prognosticating or divining the future, we would certainly be interested in putting forth a partnership on the Dixie campus. That makes a lot of sense on a lot of different levels. If the regents and Legislature step in and ask us to talk to Dixie about a partnership, it just makes more sense."
SUU will offer 18 new undergraduate and 20 new graduate classes on the Dixie campus in spring 2008, according to a news release."The new university opportunities on Dixie's campus are open to all prospective students and professionals who may be considering one of SUU's many undergraduate or graduate programs but do not want to move to attend school in Cedar City," the release says. "In short, SUU will now come to you."