Texas NAACP students file federal civil rights complaint over UT-Austin’s “Eyes of Texas”

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The Texas chapter of the NAACP, along with the University of Texas at Austin chapter of the civil rights organization and a group of anonymous students, have filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education. The US claims that UT-Austin is creating a “hostile environment”. ”For black students by continuing to play the alma mater song“ The Eyes of Texas ”at college events.

The complaint, filed Friday morning, alleges that black students have been denied the full benefits of Longhorn’s student life because the song is an official part of the university, “despite its racially origin, context, and meaning. offensive “. The song premiered in a minstrel show in the early 1900s where students wore black faces. Despite the setback, university officials have said they will keep the song as alma mater, concluding in a report released earlier this year that the song “had no racist intent.”


The complaint, filed in The Texas Tribune by the files, says the university has not responded to racial harassment against black students and others who oppose the song, which violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and argues the university’s decision to create a separate one-band music for students who don’t want to play “The Eyes of Texas” violates the same protections offered by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Last spring, the UT-Austin Butler School of Music announced the creation of a new band in which students should not play the song after Longhorn Band members refused to play it last fall at because of its history and origins. Longhorn band students have to play the song.

UT-Austin did not respond to any requests for comment. A U.S. Department of Education spokesman said it does not recognize the complaints unless they have been accepted for investigation. The department updates its research list monthly.


This last movement of the local chapters of the NAACP took place a day before the start of the football season. The Longhorn Band plays the song, and these games have been where much of the controversy surrounding the song developed. Just over a year ago, a group of UT football players called on the school to stop using the song. The debate touched on many parts of the university community, from athletics and academics to fundraising and student organizations. On Saturday, the band played the song and the players stayed on the field for the individual postgame tradition without any major issues. Football coach Steve Sarkisian said in January that “The Eyes of Texas” is our school song. We will sing this song. We will sing it with pride. “

But the complaint points to the continued desire of some students and alumni beyond the football stadium to push administrators to stop using the song as UMA-Austin’s alma mater, despite the university’s insistence. which will be maintained. Last month, a group of students protested the song at an event welcoming new students to campus during the fall semester. Some students also organized a walk to graduation last spring when he played the song.


Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, said the groups initially tried to work with college leaders to get them to finish the song, but were unsuccessful. They decided to file the complaint because the students said the campus climate surrounding the song had become increasingly tense throughout the spring semester. Al-Nasser Lawal, UT-Austin senior and chairman of the NAACP’s UT-Austin chapter, said groups of black students also met with administrators to discuss their concerns with the song without success.

“As black students, we feel like our voices are not being heard,” Lawal said in an interview. “The primary goal of the administration and campus is to simply appease their wealthy donors so that they can continue to obtain this funding and not have our best interests at heart.”

They argue that the song is inevitable, as it is sung after sporting events, at graduation and at the bells of the UT tower every evening.


Bledsoe said the students involved decided to remain anonymous because they feared reprisals from the university.

The complaint is directed at UT-Austin, as well as some unnamed college alumni, arguing that while alumni do not receive federal funding, “the actions of certain college alumni may be attributable to the university. because the university has a duty to protect students and provide them with security. and a non-threatening and non-discriminatory educational environment “.

He also cites five anonymous students who shared various experiences in which they felt ostracized or abused for their opposition to the song.

Leaders of the NAACP chapters said they considered the decision to create two gangs to be the most egregious example of discrimination, dating back to the 1950 Sweatt Vs. , Heman Sweatt, Admission to UT Law. The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled against UT-Austin because of differences between the white student law school, which had more professors, a larger law library, and better facilities than the law school created by UT-Austin. to black students.


Bledsoe said he believes the new band will not reap the same benefits as the Longhorn Band, which has a rich history and an active support base for alumni.

The complaint also argues that UT-Austin created a hostile environment for campus tour guides who asked the university to remove a plaque with the lyrics of the songs from the university’s welcome center. The students went on strike after the university said it understood if the students did not want to continue serving as a guide based on their feelings about the school song.

UT-Austin announced last month that it would remove the letters, but the complaint argues that the university did nothing to address the financial and emotional damage the students suffered from this situation.

UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell said the song would be released last summer after a group of football players demanded his retirement following the assassination of George Floyd. The president commissioned a group to study the history of the song. The group’s report concluded that the song debuted in a racist setting, but had no racist intent. Nor was a direct link found showing Confederate General Robert E. Lee inspired the phrase “Texas eyes are on you,” as said earlier by those who opposed the song.


Shortly afterwards, a UT-Austin professor, Alberto Martinez, published his own report on the history of the song that contradicted some of the university’s findings. The complaint filed Friday accuses the university committee of not fully exploring the song’s history, pointing to Martinez’s report as evidence.

UT-Austin has maintained its own report.

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Credit – https://www.ksat.com/news/texas/2021/09/07/texas-naacp-students-file-federal-civil-rights-complaint-over-ut-austins-eyes-of-texas/