Sport University of Texas donors threatened to withhold money if school stopped playing spirit song with racist history at sporting events
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- The University of Texas' spirit song "The Eyes of Texas" has stirred controversy due to its ties to slavery and minstrel shows.
- During one recent game, most of the football team refused to stand on the field during the playing of the song.
- Wealthy alumni threatened to pull their donations from the school after the incident demanding the University's support for the song.
The University of Texas is in the middle of a power struggle between wealthy alumni donors and student activists over the school's controversial spirit song "The Eyes of Texas."
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Emails obtained by Kate McGee ofshow that some of the school's high-profile alumni threatened to pull their donations if university president Jay Hartzell did not take a stronger stance in supporting the song. This came after an incident following the football team's loss to Oklahoma on October 10.
After the game, when players typically stand on the field while the song plays, quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the only one who stayed on the field while the rest of the team retreated to the locker room. For the students who had been petitioning the school to get rid of the song for months, the sight of Elhinger on the field was dispiriting.
However, for the alumni that have a stronger appreciation for the song and its history, the sight of Elhinger on the field by himself was infuriating. Ehlinger later said he only stayed on the field to talk with his coaches.
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Despite Hartzell's previous claims that the song would not be changed or removed, He received over 300 emails on the matter, most of which were from outraged alumni demanding that action be taken to preserve the school's traditions.
"[Alumni] are pulling planned gifts, canceling donations, walking away from causes and programs that have been their passion for years, even decades, and turning away in disgust. Last night one texted me at 1:00 am, trying to find a way to revoke a 7-figure donation," President of the Longhorn Alumni Band Charitable Fund Board of Trustees Kent Kostka wrote to a group of administrators in an email obtained by. "This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. Real damage is being done every day by the ongoing silence."
The controversy surrounding the song is due to the origin of its lyrics., with the song's title being a phrase often used by then-UT President William Prather. Prather modeled himself after Confederate general Robert E. Lee, who often said "the eyes of The South are upon you," which inspired the name and opening lyric of "The Eyes of Texas."
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The song is set to the tone of the classic folk song "I've Been Working on The Railroad" and was performed by white singers in blackface multiple times in the school's history, according to Kaitlyn Wells of.
Students at the university launched a petition onin June urging administrators to sever their long-standing ties to Confederate leaders and people who supported segregation. The petition called for the names of some buildings and landmarks on campus to be changed and asked university leaders to "acknowledge the racist roots of 'The Eyes of Texas' and its origins from a reoccurring minstrel show on campus through a formal statement to the student body."
The petition was accompanied by pleas from the university's student-athletes to the athletic department to "keep their promise of condemning racism on our campus" and "go beyond this by taking action to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program." These requests included "The replacement of The Eyes of Texas with a new song without racist undertones."
The university did bolster its efforts to increase diversity and inclusivity in its hiring and recruiting tactics. It even went so far as to rename buildings named after confederate leaders. However, the university has reiterated that "The Eyes of Texas" will not be replaced as the official spirit song.
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