University of Texas President, Donors Clash Over Iconic Fight Song

March 3, 2021 Updated: March 3, 2021

University of Texas (UT) at Austin administrators are at odds with a group of alumni, who are threatening to withhold donations if the school doesn’t show enough support of its historic fight song.

In emails obtained by the Texas Tribune, hundreds of alumni and donors complained to UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell after then-Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger stood on the field after a home game as the “Eyes of Texas” played while his teammates left the field.

The song, which is traditionally sung at large events, such as commencement ceremonies or sports competitions, was targeted last year by student activists who called on the university leadership to address what they considered “racial injustice.” According to student newspaper The Daily Texan, “Eyes of Texas” was originally performed in the early 1900s at a minstrel show by performers wearing blackface.

According to the Tribune, most of the emails it received in a public records request demanded the UT actively back the song, saying that they were “disgusted” and “embarrassed” that no one joined Ehlinger to keep the tradition going.

“My wife and I have given an endowment in excess of $1 million to athletics. This could very easily be rescinded if things don’t drastically change around here,” wrote one donor whose name was not disclosed. “Has everyone become oblivious of who supports athletics??”

Emails also show alumni arguing that UT administrators have caved to what they called “Marxist ideology” and “cancel culture.” Nearly a dozen emails alleged that UT students with conservative opinions are unfairly treated compared to their liberal peers.

“I truly hope that you value diversity of opinion…but if you are similar to today’s academia you will shut down conservative viewpoints and true facts,” wrote one alumni. “I do not support UT anymore (even though my family has 3 generations of graduates) because it has become a bastion of far liberal indoctrination and only teaches one point of view.”

In response, Hartzell said he disagrees with the emails’ claims, saying that they are “abhorrent and hateful” and don’t truly represent the Longhorns community.

“People who target our students with hateful views do not represent the values of the Longhorn community,” Hartzell said in a statement on March 2. “A few extremist views in the sample of emails the Texas Tribune reported on do not speak for the 540,000 proud Longhorn alumni who actively support our students and university.”

“Out of the many emails I received this fall, a very small number included comments that were truly abhorrent and hateful,” he continued. “I categorically reject them, and they bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making.”

That being said, Hartzell reaffirmed that “Eyes of Texas” will not be removed as requested by student activists.

“‘The Eyes of Texas,’ in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater,” Hartzell said. “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.”