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University of Texas student-athletes and band members will not be required to sing or participate in the “Eyes of Texas,” even as the school determined there was “no racist intent” behind the song.
The 58-page report and determination were released Tuesday amid heightened scrutiny over the song after emails published in the Texas Tribune last week revealed that alumni and donors threatened to stop donating to the school if football players refused to participate in the song. Some players went as far to say their post-collegiate job prospects were threatened to be put into jeopardy over the song.
A 24-person panel that convened to determine the meaning behind the song’s roots, lyrics and history found that it was rooted in a message of accountability and striving toward excellence.
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FILE – In this Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, file photo, fans join in singing "The Eyes of Texas" after Texas defeated UTEP 59-3 in an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
“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 Eyes of Texas” was written in 1903 and was meant to be sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” The song is mostly played after games and graduation ceremonies. It came under fire amid a summer of unrest for having Confederate ties.
The title of the song was reportedly taken from a favored saying of a former school president who had mimicked remarks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and was performed by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows. However, the panel could not find a direct link to the line “the eyes of Texas are upon you” and Lee.
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School President Jay Hartzell said the song will still be played but no one will be forced to participate.
“Nobody has been, or will be, required to sing the song,” 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 standíng 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.”
Richard Reddick, the panel chairman and associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the college of education, added the report did not have a “vindication or smoking gun.”
“Reading the report will help us reflect on what it means to be a university found in the post-bellum era in the Jim Crow south, and to have parts of our history in that moment, and what it means to evolve over time,” Reddick said.
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Hartzell said he planned to meet with the football team later Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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