The long-awaited University of Texas report on ‘The Eyes of Texas’ has found that the school song “has no racist intent,” but the school president said athletes and band members will not be bound. to sing or participate when the song is played at campus games and events.
the 58 page report, released Tuesday, was commissioned last year by the school’s president, Jay Hartzell, after a group of Texas athletes, mostly soccer players, demanded that the school drop the song as part of the protests for racial injustice.
The issue erupted into a storm of fan outrage when soccer players chose to leave the field rather than engage in traditional fan chanting after multiple games. Some fans emailed Hartzell warning that the school would lose financial donors.
A 24-person panel tasked with studying the song’s origins, lyrics, and history found it was rooted in a message of responsibility and striving for excellence.
“These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, extremely common for the time, but, as the preponderance of the investigation showed, it had no racist intentions,” the report states in its executive summary. . “‘The eyes of Texas” should not only unite us, but hold us accountable for the core values of our institution.”
Written in 1903 and sung to the tune of ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’, the song is an old standard in Longhorns country. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies and is a popular song at weddings and even funerals.
It has also been a sore subject for decades for some minority students. The title was taken from a favorite saying of a former school president who had reportedly imitated the comments of Confederate General Robert E Lee. The song was routinely performed by black-faced musicians at minstrel shows.
The panel was not tasked with making a decision about the future of the song. Hartzell, with the strong backing of the school’s Board of Regents, had already decided that the song would stay. In an interview before the study was published, Hartzell insisted that this did not undermine the credibility of the report.
Hartzell reiterated that the song will continue to play at games and events.
“This report gives us a common set of data for more conversations,” Hartzell said. “The committee may have discovered something that might have made us reconsider. It did not.”
One of the few issues yet to be determined was participation on campus, especially among Longhorns athletes. New soccer coach Steve Sarkisian has previously said that his team will sing the song “with pride” after games out of tradition.
The report included a recommendation that students not be required to sing the song.
“No one has been required or asked to sing the song,” Hartzell said. “That will be the way we continue to operate. We hope that as people review the report, read the facts, they will find ways to participate in some way. Whether it is the case of the athletes standing on the field or the fans in the stands while we sing, there will be no punishment, no mandate, no requirement if people choose not to participate ”.
Hartzell said he planned to meet with the soccer team and other athletes on Tuesday.
“They started this, they should hear about the report first,” Hartzell said. “I hope we get to a point of mutual respect where if you choose to sing and I don’t, we don’t necessarily judge something about each other in a crude way.”
The panel that studied the song was comprised of campus professors, staff and historians, and representatives from groups of students and alumni of the band. He also had a current athlete, band member, and cheerleader. The key findings include:
The researchers said they couldn’t find a direct link between the distinctive line “Texas eyes are on you” and anything Lee said to his students at Washington and Lee University, where he was president after the Civil War. The panel determined that there is a “very low probability” that the line originated with Lee.
The song borrows the tune from ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’, a song with racist lyrics, probably because it was already well known and easy to sing.
Performances at campus minstrel shows with blackface actors, which continued into the 1960s, are a “painful reality,” but the song does not appear to have been composed as a minstrel tune.
The panel’s 40 recommendations include teaching the song’s history at student orientation events and allowing new alternate versions composed or performed by black musicians.
“The report has neither a vindication nor a smoking gun,” said panel chair Richard Reddick, associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach at the faculty of education. “Reading the report will help us reflect on what it means to be a post-war era university in the Jim Crow South, and to have parts of our history at that time, and what it means to evolve over time. “.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism