At Gone to Texas, graduation and athletic events, students sing “The Eyes of Texas,” but some question if the cornerstone of school spirit is a lasting mark of UT’s racist history.
The UT Society of Professional Mediators hosted about 50 students Friday to discuss the divisive song in an organized manner. Event organizer William Heard said he hopes students could at least understand others’ perspectives, even if they could not agree with them.
“We’re seeing more students and student organizations make decisions whether or not to endorse the song,” political communications sophomore Heard said. “If you have a position, you’re set in it, but we want people to recognize one another.”
Two UT students wrote the song in 1902, and it was first performed at a minstrel show for the University’s track team in 1903. The lyrics were since slightly changed, and the revised version was declared the University’s official song by the Board of Regents in 2003.
Undergraduate studies freshman Normandy Toledo sang “The Eyes of Texas” throughout her upbringing in a UT family. Toledo said she values the tradition of the song but recognizes the University should make it an unofficial piece of school spirit.
“When I think of UT, the song is the first thing that comes to mind,” Toledo said. “The University should formally acknowledge its history and not make it an official song anymore, but we should still sing it.”
Self-proclaimed lifelong Texan Regan Burns said the song’s lyrics, such as the reference to Gabriel blowing his horn, can be changed to lessen its offense to others without losing its official, traditional significance.
“Changing some lyrics could remove what I think are the most racist parts of the song,” biology senior Burns said. “‘The eyes of Texas are upon you’ are the strongest lyrics that everyone knows, so we can take out the other lyrics that have racial implications without taking away from the tradition.”
While anthropology senior Dreanna Hill said she did not have a strong opinion on the song, the diversity of thought made her hopeful that discussions like these will help UT make represented decisions about the song.
“I do not have the same background as someone who views (the song) in either an offensive or traditional way,” Hill said. “All of our thoughts are based off our past experiences. People can interpret things differently, and they are all equally valid.”