AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas president confirmed Wednesday that the alma mater song, “The Eyes of Texas,” will still be played this weekend, just without the band. He says that was the plan all along.
That comes after the Longhorn Band director, Scott Hanna, said an internal survey revealed there weren’t enough band members willing to play at Saturday’s game, sending a message to the band saying, “based on internal survey responses, we do not have the necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday’s game.”
KXAN spoke to a member of the band who said an internal survey found some students refused to play the alma mater song.
But some students and alumni are petitioning for the song, including the group #StandWithSam & The Eyes of Texas. Clayton Wilson and Haden Ritchie spent Wednesday afternoon trying to keep a 103-year-old tradition alive, by soliciting electronic signatures, advocating for the song and encouraging players to remain on the field for the song to show unity.
“The tradition is really important, and I think that although there is controversy about how it started, but I think it’s developed into something more than that,” said Ritchie.
The group’s goal is to get 5,000 signatures. By 10 p.m. Wednesday, they received more than 4,000.
UT senior Carys Anderson was not one of them. She criticizes the song for its origins in a phrase used by a Confederate general and for how it was first performed as part of a tradition of minstrel shows by white students wearing blackface.
“I don’t think it should be played, I feel like the university should be listening to the students, and if a lot of students are saying this history is negatively impacting us now—they should listen to that,” said Anderson.
During a summer of racial tensions in Austin and around the nation, three student petitions called for the university to reexamine the legacy of the song. Some UT student-athletes also called for replacing “The Eyes of Texas.”
In a statement Wednesday, UT said it is continuing to work with students in the Longhorn Band to maintain the musical traditions of UT, including “The Eyes of Texas.”
Doug Dempster, UT Dean of the College of Fine Arts, said on Oct. 6, “A range of well-informed convictions on this issue need to be considered respectfully as conscientious and honorable. But given the long-standing traditions and mission of a university spirit band, this disagreement needs to be resolved before the Longhorn Band can return to public performance.”
Earlier this month, UT President Jay Hartzell announced a committee will look into the full history of “The Eyes of Texas.” Members will recommend ways to improve understanding about its origins. The school says that work is ongoing this fall.