UT Austin's new diversity plan keeps controversial 'Eyes of Texas' as school song
A month after University of Texas football players unveiled a list of changes in support of diversity and inclusion, the school is laying out its framework to move the 137-year-old institution forward.
In a July 13 letter to the campus, UT interim president Jay Hartzell unveiled the university's new diversity plan, which is focused on two areas: recruiting, attracting, retaining a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff and "reconsidering" how the university can best reflect its values.
“During the past month, I have listened to scores of students. I went into these conversations understanding that UT has worked hard to become a more diverse and welcoming place. I came out of them realizing there is still more work to do — and this starts and ends by creating an environment in which students are fully supported before, during and after their time at UT,” Hartzell said in a release.
In a separate letter, Hartzell outlined many of the new measures in depth, which include:
- Renaming the Robert L. Moore Building as the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building.
- Allocating millions from Texas Athletics to recruit, attract, retain, and support Black students.
- Recruiting students from Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, "and elsewhere" and creating scholarships specifically to retain Black students who are admitted to UT but choose to go elsewhere.
- Expanding the UT Austin Police Oversight Committee to include more community members and a broader range of students.
- Creating spaces to prominently honor its first Black students, including Heman Sweatt and Julius Whittier.
- Renaming Joe Jamail Field at the stadium in honor of Texas’ two great Heisman Trophy winners, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams (a suggestion of the Jamail family).
- Updating the university's 2017 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
What won't change is the students' request to remove the "Eyes of Texas" as UT's school song. The song, inspired in part by Robert E. Lee, will continue to be sung on campus. The inclusion of "Eyes of Texas" in the students' letter unsurprisingly sparked discussion among alumni, at times veering into racist rhetoric, and grabbed headlines across the nation.
“'The Eyes of Texas,' in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater," Hartzell writes. "Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed. It is my belief that we can effectively reclaim and redefine what this song stands for by first owning and acknowledging its history in a way that is open and transparent."
Taking to Twitter on Monday morning, Longhorn football coach Tom Herman praised his players for their leadership.
So very proud of our players, all Texas student-athletes, our entire student population and university leadership. They will forever be known for being responsible for tangible, positive change on our great campus. Today is a great first step. #HookEm 🤘🏼 https://t.co/ftYQpgPk3G— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) July 13, 2020
Exact details have yet to be released, but in his letter, Hartzell says the university will remain transparent and open as plans are developed.