Message from President Hartzell
Everything we do at The University of Texas at Austin comes back to three things: research, teaching and changing the world. Our work around “The Eyes of Texas” is no different. Our committee members have created a piece of interdisciplinary research that will benefit future generations and have modeled an approach to a complex and emotional issue that we can replicate across campus – indeed across society. This model is vital because we’re not moving on from this – we’re moving forward, together.
Dr. Rich Reddick, The Eyes of Texas History Committee Chairperson
With humility, we submit The Eyes of Texas History Committee Report. From the announcement of our committee on October 6, 2020 to late February, our collective endeavored to research, analyze, and collect data to respond to the four charges issued to us. This report responds to the charges set forth by President Hartzell: to examine the origins of “The Eyes of Texas,” to analyze the uses by the university, student organizations, and those beyond the 40 Acres; and to propose ways to educate the community on its history.
In fall 2020, President Jay Hartzell formed The Eyes of Texas History Committee to research the origins and meaning of UT’s alma mater and to suggest ways for the university to move forward with greater inclusion and equity. The group was composed of 25 faculty members, students, alumni and historians. What they discovered surprised even those who thought they knew the entire story. But the biggest finding of all was that the committee became a model for thoughtful discussions about painful topics, and a model for changing the world.
Four Key Takeaways from the Committee Report
“The Eyes of Texas” Remains Our Alma Mater
President Hartzell stated in July 2020 that “The Eyes of Texas” would remain UT’s alma mater, the UT System Board of Regents supported his decision, and The Eyes of Texas History Committee was created with the sole authority to research and understand the song’s history, as well as institutional and broader historical uses since its inception.
The History of the Song Reflects the History of America
The history of “The Eyes of Texas” mirrors the history of the United States, Texas, The University of Texas at Austin as well as its band and sports teams. This complexity creates an opportunity for continued learning, sharing and understanding.
Facts and Historical Context Matter
Research by the committee has uncovered important facts and historical context, some of which has never been systematically compiled and analyzed until now. These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, exceedingly common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent in that it was intended to parody the famous phrases of the university president. However, systemic racial intent existed in the setting and culture where the song debuted. The exclusion of Black students at that time presents an opportunity to think about how they and other communities of color have fought for inclusion and the work that remains to ensure all members of our community feel they belong.
Living Out the Meaning
From its inception, “The Eyes of Texas” has always been a song about accountability. Therefore, the spirit and intention of the song compels the university to be transparent about its past and be ever more accountable to the state and its diverse people. In this sense, the work of the committee was a microcosm of what the university should stand for: research, getting to the facts, seeking to understand others’ viewpoints, continuing to learn, courageously confronting and acknowledging our history, and finding ways to strengthen our community going forward.
The full, book-length report provides details about the origins, meaning and debut of “The Eyes of Texas.” It also includes the evolution and popularization of the song, a timeline of milestones, and the committee’s recommendations.