University of Texas students say they want the Longhorns to ditch their longtime fight song because of its racist past. This isn’t the first time a student group has complained about it, but they hope they’re the last. Though, it will be a fight. Some alumni and university staff say they’re not willing to give up their traditions.
The anonymous group of students teamed up with the Texas and university chapters of the NAACP to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. They allege the school is creating a “hostile environment” for black students by continuing to play “The Eyes of Texas” at games “despite its racially offensive origin, context and meaning.”
They claim UT-Austin is denying them a full university experience.
Al-Nasser Lawal, a UT-Austin senior and president school’s chapter of the NAACP, told Fox News that talks with school leaders were fruitless.
“As black students, we kind of feel as if it’s not like our voices are heard,” he told the Tribune. “The main objective of the administration and the campus is just to appease their wealthy donors so that they can continue to get that funding, and that they don’t really have our best interests at heart.”
It’s unclear how the education department will rule, but the song does have a difficult history.
The name comes from a former school president who was mimicking Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Fox News said. And musicians used to perform “The Eyes of Texas” in the 1900s at minstrel shows while wearing blackface.
Longhorn students began protesting the song last football season. The school band refused to play it at games. And some Longhorn players stayed off the field until the song was over.
That’s when the backlash started.
Texas Alumni, Coach Stand Up for Fight Song
Several wealthy alumni and boosters said they would pull their support of the school if the Longhorns stopped playing the song.
One of those is former Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy. He now plays for the Arizona Cardinals. McCoy was one of more than 550 alumni that emailed school leaders last year to keep “The Eyes of Texas” playing at school events, the Texas Tribune reported.
Jay Hartzell, UT-Austin president, released a statement recently that said those “small number” of emails “bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making.” To help in that decision, Hartzell commissioned a study of the song, which ruled that it was “not overtly racist.”
Though the issue is more cut and dry for many. That includes Longhorns football coach Steve Sarkisian, who joined the team in January.
“I know this much, ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song,” Sarkisian said then. “We’re going to sing that song. We’re going to sing that proudly.”