UT keeps ‘Eyes of Texas’ as school song, wants to ‘reimagine’ it as school promotes inclusion, diversity

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin will keep “The Eyes of Texas” as a school song, but will make other changes around campus to “promote diversity, inclusion and equity and to more fully support Black students on campus,” university leaders announced Monday.

The university says it will “own, acknowledge and teach about the origins” of the song as it moves forward “while partnering with the campus community to reimagine its future as a song that unites all Longhorns.”

UT will rename the Robert L. Moore building, put up a statue of Heman M. Sweatt, UT’s first Black student, and a statue of Julius Whittier, UT’s first Black letterman in athletics, among other changes.

Here’s a list of the changes and initiatives outlined in the letter from interim President Jay Hatzell. The letter, in full, can be viewed on the university’s website.

  • Allocate a multimillion-dollar investment from Texas Athletics’ revenue to programs — on or off campus — that work to recruit, attract, retain and support Black students.
  • Expand UT’s presence and outreach in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere to better recruit outstanding high school students from underrepresented groups.
  • Adopt a universitywide plan to recruit, develop and retain world-class faculty members who bring more diversity.
  • Refocus and sharpen the implementation of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, released in 2017.
  • Expand the UT Austin Police Oversight Committee to include more community members and explore creative approaches to on-campus safety and wellness issues.
  • Rename the Robert L. Moore Building as the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building.
  • Honor Heman M. Sweatt, UT’s first Black student, in additional ways:
    • Creating the Heman M. Sweatt Entrance to T.S. Painter Hall on 24th Street.
    • Placing a statue of Sweatt near the entrance.
    • Reimagining, redesigning and rededicating a major space in the building as an exhibit and gathering space where we will tell the story of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Sweatt v. Painter, recognize Sweatt’s courage and leadership in changing the world through the 1950 case that he won, and place Painter Hall within the context of the university’s resistance to integration under T.S. Painter’s presidency.
  • Build new spaces and monuments for deserving, heroic Longhorns:
    • Honor the Precursors, the first Black undergraduates to attend UT Austin, with a new monument on the East Mall, as part of a larger space dedicated to pioneering students and faculty members.
    • Erect a statue for Julius Whittier, the Longhorns’ first Black football letterman, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
    • At the suggestion of the Jamail family, rename Joe Jamail Field at the stadium in honor of Texas’ two great Heisman Trophy winners, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
  • Educate visitors to the campus about the history and context of many of the names that will remain, such as the Littlefield Fountain, the statue of Gov. Jim Hogg, the Belo Center and the pedestals on which a series of statues stood until 2017.
  • Own, acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of “The Eyes of Texas” as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community. “The Eyes of Texas,” in its current form, will continue to be UT’s alma mater, but the university will work to reclaim and redefine what this song stands for, first by owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent, and then by partnering with the campus community to reimagine its future as a song that unites all Longhorns

The timelines and details for the above actions will be released in the coming weeks and months as projects get underway. Information about these initiatives and updates on their progress will be included on the university’s central diversity webpage.

Student leaders say diversity initiative is a start, but not enough

UT’s student body president, Anagha Kikkeri, says changes the university announced Monday don’t cover all of what needs to change.

“There are parts that are good that push change, like changing the name of the RLM,” Kikkeri said, noting that students have been pushing for that building’s name to be changed for years. “But some students are still disappointed by some of the changes not being made since, you know, “The Eyes of Texas” and Painter was listed in the demands that a lot of students released.”

Emily Caldwell, the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Texan co-wrote an editorial demanding changes the student body had brought forward to university leaders. In an interview with KXAN Monday, she echoed Kikkeri’s sentiments that more should be done, questioning the decision to keep “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater.

“UT continuing to support that tradition, saying that they’ll educate people– I think it’s fair to say a lot of people know that this song has racist origins. Its roots are inherently racist,” she said. “Continuing to support that song, it feels very, for lack of a better word, it feels a little bit performative, saying that they’ll educate students about this.”

Caldwell also questions the university’s decision not to change the names of some buildings and landmarks known to be associated with segregation or the Confederacy.

“There’s not a lot of variations of racism. You’re racist or you’re not,” Caldwell said. “So keeping those buildings on our campus as monuments, essentially, or fountains, statues, these relics– it just feels very off to me.”

“This should not be the changes, this should only be the beginning of work that should happen,” Kikkeri said. “That’s one of the huge sentiments I’ve seen from students. This should be the beginning of many changes, because we should be striving to make campus safe and better for our Longhorns and for Black students who have not felt that way for so long.”

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