To: My fellow Lawmakers from S. Utah, and friends
Date: December 15, 2020, Tuesday
From: Rep. Travis M. Seegmiller, Sr., JD
Re: Efforts to drop the word “Dixie” from Dixie State University
This will be a quick note, “pecked” on my phone, because I'm in another meeting, but I wanted to quickly add my voice in this email thread. Please clearly note that I stand OPPOSED to the current, misguided efforts to eliminate our “Utah’s Dixie” heritage & history from the name of our local university. I think that it should remain “Dixie State University” for now – unchanged. Allow me to explain my perspective a bit.
First, some context. Like Rep. Walt Brooks also explained about his family, many names of my direct-line ancestors can be found on the mural-plaque wall at Encampment Mall at Dixie State University. My dad and his namesake uncle were both Student Body Presidents at Dixie College. Many of my siblings, both of my parents, both of my Seegmiller grandparents, and a great many more family members and loved ones have all studied at Dixie. And, for generations we've been Dixie higher-ed faculty members in my family, including working as a full-time faculty member myself for much of the past decade. In short, we have been a truly devoted local Dixie family. So you might have guessed how I felt yesterday about the strategically slanted (unfair? myopic?) consulting “findings” that were publicly communicated in such a biased way; plus the pre-cooked unanimous public vote of the Trustees to support dropping “Dixie” from the university’s name; and the hugely slanted “interview” that the consulting firm conducted with me a few weeks ago, where certain desired outcomes were indeed built into the questions I was asked (and I could go on and on…..)
Well, all of these developments pushed me further into the corner of feeling like the wool is being pulled over our eyes, and another agenda is being served by using the phony Trojan Horse of “what is best for the students” —- an argument or perspective that makes absolutely no sense to me. When I taught full-time on the DSU faculty, hundreds and hundreds of students over the years, I never had even ONE student communicate to me that they felt like the word ‘Dixie’ in the University's name was hurting them somehow. Many students DID tell me about many things that concerned them about the University's trajectory, urgent things which truly OUGHT to be focused on and changed, but I won’t mention those items here. Rather, I want to be clear that NOT ONE STUDENT ever worried to me about the word “Dixie” in the university’s name, for all my years of association with the university. So, based on my own anecdotal data, I think the assertion that ‘the name of the university is hurting SO MANY STUDENTS’ that it must be swiftly changed, is just plain garbage; or, if that assertion IS true of somebody somewhere, that the true scope of the negative outcomes or harms purported are so minuscule in reality as to barely even bleep on the radar screen of a truly fair analysis, when weighed against all the other immense facts that matter too. This is a HUGE decision. A HUGE choice to make. A HUGE rewriting of the past and present. All of which deserves a more accurate decision making process, that doesn’t “smell bad” on its face from the outset, as we are experiencing here.
Most of the key arguments, including arguments made by Trustees yesterday, and much of the baked-to-outcome data presented, have NOT been compelling to me, further because I hear the VERY LOUD voices every day of the now hundreds of local citizens that I represent who think this whole exercise is a deaf and blind attempt to cower to the demands of a few, well-placed, very loud and aggressive voices, while kicking the ~7 generations that include our pioneer ancestors who built this University from the ground up, squarely in the teeth, as my grandad would say. And credit should be given where credit is deserved: our amazing local University has become what it is over many decades & generations of hard work and volunteerism by thousands upon thousands of locals who LOVE & LOVED DIXIE PRECISELY BECAUSE IT WAS THEIR “DIXIE”!! I'm a 3rd generation DSU faculty member; my mom has taught there for 20+ years; and her father taught there too, retiring with nearly 30 years of devoted, full-time service to Dixie. These are all simple examples of people whose love for the University will quickly be shorn away if the actions are ultimately taken to take their beloved “Dixie” away from them. THAT IS HOW IT IS VIEWED: If the “new” polytechnic University insists on creating a completely new identity that blatantly strips the local Dixie heritage out, then nobody should be surprised when the tens of thousands of local devotees to Dixie's original identity fall by the wayside and the new University struggles to build such support after turning it's back on the locals and the local region. Changing the name right now, or sometime soon, would be a terrific way to rip the local support for our local university to shreds!
DIXIE STATE UNIVERSITY IS A GREAT PLACE TO STUDY TODAY LARGELY BECAUSE OF THE EFFORTS OF MANY GENERATIONS OF LOCAL DEVOTEES WHO SERVED DIXIE AT EVERY TURN WITH THE BEST OF THEIR TIME, TALENTS AND TREASURE — INCLUDING GREAT PEOPLE WHO MOVED HERE ALONG THE WAY TO HELP BUILD THIS PLACE — AND THOSE PEOPLE, ALONG WITH THEIR LIVING POSTERITY, ARE THE ONES WHOSE WHOLESOME CONTRIBUTIONS AND PERSPECTIVES ARE BEING SWEPT UNDER THE RUG & INSULTED WHEN VOTES ARE TAKEN LIKE THE ONE YESTERDAY.
I see worrisome cracks in the strong underpinnings of community support for our university that could very quickly turn into chasms. Are we catering only or predominantly to trying to recruit and retain students from all around the nation and globe, while forgetting or abandoning what the state's taxpayers have funded for many entire lifetimes: a stellar teaching university that FIRST AND FOREMOST MEETS THE NEEDS OF LOCAL UTAHNS WHOSE TAXES PREDOMINANTLY FUND THE PLACE. I don't believe that an aggressive name change campaign right now, during this time in our nation's history, will do ANY GOOD AT ALL to help the University better serve our local students who NEED a higher-ed “home” here in town that CARES ABOUT THEM as a matter of highest priority. To the contrary! An aggressive name change (that is built on a clear “political correctness” agenda that caters to the loudest complainers among us, instead of catering to the local students) that drops the word “Dixie” will scream a loud message to our local students that our local University is no longer “their” or “our” community's University. Instead, “our” local University will have left our local students from the surrounding region behind, in the red dust, to instead have sought and fought for aggressive growth in the numbers of new students recruited from around the nation and world, from outside of Utah — at the expense of its core identify and purpose over all these years, of being the cost-effective higher education home to the students who live nearby, first and foremost.
Where are the university leaders who are smart enough to achieve their aggressive GROWTH GROWTH GROWTH goals — while keeping Dixie State University squarely focused on its Open Access, Local Community-focused mission? I personally think that the success of our local students, and all students of every age in the entire Utah community, must absolutely be the first and highest priority of Dixie State University, and that the university’s expanded goals of recruiting many more students from around the nation and globe must come distantly behind the ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF THIS LOCAL COMMUNITY UNIVERSITY: Take Great Care of our local students first, please! That’s what generations of us locals have sacrificed greatly for, and that’s what generations of our local tax dollars were intended for. Don’t try to grow too big for your britches in a way that leaves the local students in the dust. It feels like that is what is about to happen with all this talk of dumping “Dixie” from the university’s name, so soon on the heels of the very tough year that we have all survived.
I began this process with an open mind; I could envision some reasons why a name change might make sense someday; I was willing to learn a lot more and consider nuances that I might not have been aware of at first. I really wanted to better understand the purported core problem(s) associated with the word “Dixie” in the context of my homeland of Utah’s Dixie and my home-town university, Dixie State University. But now, in short, I'm squarely standing firmly, along with the vast vast majority of people that I represent who have reached out to me, to oppose a name change at this time. We need to let this issue “bake” for awhile longer so that a change is not “jammed down the throats” of the local community who still strongly disagrees.
Perhaps there will be a time in the future when this issue needs to be revisited for genuine reasons. But I'm not in support of making any changes to DSU's name currently. I don't need to delineate here all the obvious cultural reasons why now is a terrible time to make such a change: Let's NOT tear-open those wounds right now. Instead, with clearer heads in the future (when our state and nation hasn't spent such a bitter and violent year dealing with sad and difficult racial tensions, for example) then down the road return to this issue if needed. But not now — not in 2021.
I hope this eliminates any confusion that might have persisted regarding where I stand: I stand with my ancestors, my parents, my grandparents on both sides of the family, and with everyone — ALL OF US — who built this place; I stand with my many constituents who are now building this place; and I stand true to my heart in opposing a name change at this time that strips the word “Dixie” from the university’s name.
Thank you for your patience as you consider my thoughts above. I look forward to continuing our open-minded dialogue.
Sent from my smartphone. Please excuse any errors.
TRAVIS M. SEEGMILLER, Sr., J.D.
Utah State House of Representatives
House District 62
How can you help SAVE DIXIE?
1. We now focus on getting everyone to contact the EVERY legislator in the State of Utah, ask them to VOTE AGAINST a name change for DSU.
Since every legislator will vote, we must include all members of the legislature, not just our local representatives.
a. We also ask that you contact all of your friends, family & neighbors and ask them to contact their own local legislators THROUGHOUT THE STATE to ask them to vote against a name change at Dixie State if the bill goes before the next legislative session in January 2021.
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