Texas president: 'A few extremist views' from alumni regarding 'Eyes of Texas' song aren't representative

·3 min read

The University of Texas has spoken out after a media outlet published emails from donors angry about players speaking out against the school's "Eyes of Texas" song.

Monday, the Texas Tribune published emails from donors who wanted the school to continue to play the song with racist roots. Black players at the school have stood up against the song's continued playing and have asked the school to re-evaluate players' postgame participation in the song.

Tuesday, Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement that emails with "hateful views" from some donors are not a representative sample of the school's donor and alumni base. Here's Hartzell's statement in full below:

"People who target our students with hateful views do not represent the values of the Longhorn community. A few extremist views in the sample of emails the Texas Tribune reported on do not speak for the 540,000 proud Longhorn alumni who actively support our students and university. Out of the many emails I received this fall, a very small number included comments that were truly abhorrent and hateful. I categorically reject them, and they bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making.

The fact that we don’t all agree on our school song doesn’t mean that we don’t all belong. Next week, the Eyes of Texas History Committee will release its report. Equipped with a common set of facts, we will then continue the conversation about our song. Having spoken to students and faculty on the committee, I truly believe we can be a model for how communities address complex problems and move forward together.

In June, UT athletes asked the school to replace the song because of its racist roots. It was first performed at a minstrel show in the 1900s and was derived from a phrase said by former Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

A Texas football helmet is seen during the team's spring football game, Saturday, March 30, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Players first spoke out about the song in June. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Some emails targeted players' activism

The Tribune obtained approximately 300 emails from alumni to Hartzell from June to October regarding the song. A significant majority of those emails wanted to keep the song in place. And some of that majority used incendiary language in their emails.

One donor wrote that the school needed its rich contributors "more than they need one crop of irresponsible and uniformed students or faculty who won't do what they are paid to do." Another wrote that the school should put its foot down and “make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost.”

The issue has been one of the biggest at the university over the past nine months as the school's band didn't play the song at the last two home games of the season. The song was instead played over the loudspeakers as the school remained committed to its postgame ritual.

New Texas coach Steve Sarkisian was even asked about the song's place at the school in his introductory press conference in January. Sarkisian said his team would be "fired up" to sing the song in 2021.

What the committee is doing

The Eyes of Texas History Committee referenced in Hartzell's statement above was formed by the school in 2020. The committee is chaired by Dr. Richard Reddick, the school’s associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the school’s college of education. It’s tasked with documenting the facts, intent, origin and elements of the song, the school’s institutional use of it and to “recommend potential communication tactics and/or strategies to memorialize the history of 'The Eyes of Texas.’ ”

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