Wealthy University of Texas at Austin donors are threatening to pull their support of Longhorn athletics over the school’s ties to a song that takes its name from a quote from Confederate General Robert E. Lee which was first played at minstrel shows.
Thing is, the donors aren’t calling on the school to scrap the song; they want to keep it.
Emails obtained by The Texas Tribune show alumni and donors who have been supporting the university financially are threatening to stop donating if UT-Austin president Jay Hartzell doesn’t stand up to “cancel culture” and come out in support of the longtime tradition of playing “The Eyes of Texas” after Longhorn home games.
In October, Hartzell and other university executives confirmed “The Eyes” would remain UT’s official song — even though the university band was unable to perform it due to the high number of members who refused to take part in playing the tune.
Of the nearly 300 people who emailed Hartzell’s office about “The Eyes” from June to late October, over 70% demanded that the school keep playing the song, and more than 70 said they would pull their financial support of the school over the issue.
Some of those emails were published by The Tribune, and the picture they paint is not a pretty one.
“It’s time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost,” wrote one donor who graduated in 1986. “It is sad that it is offending the blacks. As I said before the blacks are free and it’s time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor.”
Another alumnus argued the voices of minority students should not be the ones administrators listen to because they represent a small percentage of the student population.
“Less than 6% of our current student body is black,” wrote a donor who graduated in 1970. “The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog….. and the dog must instead stand up for what is right. Nothing forces those students to attend UT Austin. Encourage them to select an alternate school ….NOW!”
This fall, Hartzell announced professor and associate dean Richard Reddick would head a committee to review and document the history of the song and possibly offer a recommendation about how to handle it moving forward. Reddick, as one of the emails published by The Tribune notes, is Black.
“This professor is in charge of the team/ that tells us whether the song is racist or not? His Twitter account is filled with race baiting and cry baby [Black Lives Matter] junk,” the donor who had given more than $70,000 to Longhorn athletics wrote. “UT better get it together and use its brains, not this biased ‘victim’ professor at UT!”
As some of the content in the emails seems to clearly indicate, at least some of the song’s supporters are more concerned about who specifically is calling for the removal of “The Eyes” — not why they are doing it. Good luck to Hartzell.