The Austin area has battled through the recent controversy over the University of Texas at Austin's alma mater, "The Eyes of Texas." Concerns regarding its racist formation and debate as to whether it should still be sung at school events have been raised, and verbal battles have cropped up between alumni, donors, university administrators and students over the roots of the song and what it truly symbolizes.
However, the true issue with "The Eyes of Texas" does not simply lie in how racist the song really is — it is that students are not being listened to by an administration in place to serve students.
All students — especially student-athletes — should be concerned about how UT has handled this controversy. UT made clear it cared more about its donors' opinions — many of which included blatantly racist language, including asking Black students to 'move on to another state where everything is in their favor' — than their students' comfort representing their university.
Despite UT Austin football players and other student-athletes bringing their university hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually, the university's administrators have denied them a seat at the table in determining their own working conditions. A committee formed to analyze the history of "The Eyes of Texas" said it could neither absolve nor vindicate the song or its roots and admitted that the cultural background of its writing was steeped in racism. But the committee also said the song is not "overtly" racist.
At the end of the day, the committee's decision on how racist "The Eyes of Texas" is does not matter. What matters is how student-athletes have been treated — and they have been treated like they do not deserve to weigh in on an issue that affects them the most directly.
Athletes told The Texas Tribune that athletics officials told them they had to stand and listen to the alma mater singalong, whether they sang or not. Many athletes and other Black students have made their feelings clear. They have been acknowledged by UT administrators, and those administrators then turned around and ignored them.
Student-athletes are already restricted in what compensation they can gain from their work at their universities, such as no salary or sponsorships, and it adds insult to injury to then disregard their concerns as UT has.
Imagine a Texas State men's basketball team if players' concerns about former head coach Danny Kaspar had not been investigated — a move which placed players in a position from which they required significant healing. If athletes had instead faced calls to just deal with being in an environment in which they felt uncomfortable, how much more would the team have suffered?
Student-athletes must all stand together in protecting their stake in university athletics programs. They must be included in decisions like what songs are played at games, what names are placed on stadiums and what to do when athletics officials abuse their positions. UT's treatment of its student-athletes sets a dangerous precedent for universities around the country, and Texas State athletes need to pay attention and advocate for their neighboring student-athletes.
- Toni Mac Crossan is a biology graduate student
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.