University of Texas panel finds ‘no racist intent’ behind ‘Eyes of Texas’ fight song

University president says students will not be required to sing the song

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 09 March 2021 21:27
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FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, file photo, Texas players sing "The Eyes Of Texas" after an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Austin, Texas. The University of Texas' long-awaited report on the history of the school song “The Eyes of Texas� found it had “no racist intent,� but the school will not require athletes and band members to participate in singing or playing it at games and campus events. The song had erupted in controversy in 2020 after some members of the football team demanded the school stop playing it because of racist elements in the song’s past. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, file photo, Texas players sing "The Eyes Of Texas" after an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Austin, Texas. The University of Texas' long-awaited report on the history of the school song “The Eyes of Texas� found it had “no racist intent,� but the school will not require athletes and band members to participate in singing or playing it at games and campus events. The song had erupted in controversy in 2020 after some members of the football team demanded the school stop playing it because of racist elements in the song’s past. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

A report found that the University of Texas' Eyes of Texas song has "no racist intent", but the college president said that students would not be required to sing the song or participate when it is being played.

The report on the song was commissioned by University President Jay Hartzell after the school’s football players demanded the song be discontinued in the wake of nationwide racial injustice protests.

According to The Associated Press, the controversy reached a head last year when University of Texas football players walked off the field rather than take part in the traditional sing-along, prompting outrage from fans.

In response to the protest, some individuals sent angry emails to Mr Hartzell saying the university would lose donors over its players' actions.

The university compiled a 24-person panel to examine the song's history and lyrics to determine if there was racist language or allusions included in its verses.

"These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, exceedingly common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent," the report said. "The Eyes of Texas should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution's core values."

The song, set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" includes lyrics about the "eyes of Texas" watching people.

"The Eyes of Texas are upon you, All the livelong day. The Eyes of Texas are upon you, You cannot get away. Do not think you can escape them, at night or early in the morn – The Eyes of Texas are upon you Til Gabriel blows his horn."

The complaint alleged that the lyrics represented the "Lost Cause" ideology of the US Confederacy, arguing the separatists' war to maintain slavery was just and heroic.

Critics of the song said the lyrics mirrored comments made by Confederate General Robert E Lee.

However, the panel – which included university professors, researchers, band and athletics alumni and student representatives from the band, cheerleaders and athletics groups – found no connection to known comments from the general.

The song has been sung for decades at university events.

The panel was not established to determine the fate of the song, as Mr Hartzell said the song would continue to play at events.

"This report gives us a common set of facts for more conversations," Mr Hartzell said. "It's possible the committee could have uncovered something that could have caused us to reconsider. It did not."

While the school's football coach said his players would continue to "proudly" sing the song after games, Mr Hartzell said no one at the university would be required to sing – a recommendation the authors of the report suggested.

"Nobody has been, or will be, required to sing the song," Mr Hartzell said. "That's going to be going forward the way we continue to operate. We hope that as people go through the report, read through the facts, they'll find ways to participate in some way. Whether it's the case of the athletes standing on the field, or the fans in the stands as we sing, there's going to be no punishment, no mandate, no requirement if people choose not to participate."

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