Austin, TX--TheTexas University song 'The Eyes of Texas' has been under increasing scrutiny over the last year. Students continue to voice their concerns about the song that is traditionally played at sports events and before and after football games.
Now a group of students, according to a Facebook group post, are planning to walkout of their commencement exercise when the song is played:
"Rather than stay and be complicit in the continued anti-Blackness of UT's administration, those of us who see through President Hartzell's mission to 'reclaim' a racist song will be walking out during commencement to protest the inclusion of the Eyes of Texas in graduation programming and school events," the event page said. "UT's administration may be swayed by powerful donors who are committed to keeping white supremacy alive at UT, but we, as students and now alums, can express support for the Black students, alumni and faculty who have been harmed by this song for over 100 years."
The song has caused an increasing division among students on the Austin campus.
In March, the Austin university announced it would keep the song and continue playing it. "The Eyes of Texas History Committee" concluded there was "no racist intent" associated with the song and issued a 58-page report.
The Chair of The Eyes of Texas History Committee, Dr. Richard Reddick, said the report took an honest look at the song. The discussion keeps evolving.
"There are so many times when the song takes a turn, and unlike most school songs, it's actually being used lyrically to point out injustice, academic freedom. One of the favorite parts for me, or discoveries, was the 1966 march from South Texas of Mexican-American farmworkers working, marching for civil rights, marching for working wages, using 'The Eyes of Texas,' so that evolution tells me the song every time it's sung," Reddick said.
Earlier this year athletes declined to stay on the field when the song was played.
Texas President Jay Hartzell said:
"The hope is that everybody will use this report as an opportunity to come forward with the same fact base and be able to have more conversations, certainly including with our student-athletes," Hartzell said.
When asked directly about whether the song had racial undertones, he said:
"For me, the song itself doesn't," Hartzell said. "But it certainly was present at different times where those undertones existed. You go back to thinking about its first performance in 1903 at a minstrel show. I mean, you cannot deny that that performance has the racial undertones, and overtones, if you will. Hateful things. But on the other hand, if you look at the way, to me, the song was composed, written and designed. ... It was not designed for that."
Tensions among students continue to simmer and one student says she thinks administrators thought the issue would go away. In reference to President Hartzell's repeated suggestions the university will keep the song,
Kendall Walker, a UT-Austin senior says:
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg honestly,” Walker said. “This is the beginning of it and people resisting that decision and not accepting a committee of people deem[ing] the song isn’t racist. There's a whole generation of students and minority students that are equally and more mad than we are and don't want to enter a space that predetermined their opinions don’t matter.”
The effect of the 'Eyes of Texas' song during the commencement exercise may be a stand students take for a public display of ongoing scrutiny.
The use of the song continues to be in discovery.