AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The University of Texas at Austin announced a series of steps Monday intended to make itself more welcoming to its Black students but stopped short of shelving “The Eyes of Texas” song that a number of athletes have said needs to go because it has racist undertones.
Jay Hartzell, the interim president of the university’s flagship campus in Austin, said the song will continue to be the alma mater for the Longhorns.
“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,” he said. “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.”
“The Eyes of Texas” has long been criticized for its connection to minstrel shows with characters in blackface in the early 1900s. It is sung at most organized campus events, and players in all sports gather as a team to sing it after every game.
An unsigned letter posted on social media last month said Texas athletes want the school to replace the song, among other steps. The letter said the athletes would not help the school recruit prospects or at alumni events as they typically do unless their concerns are addressed.
The school did announce several changes, including renaming Joe Jamail Field for Black Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
The school said the change was made at the suggestion of the Jamail family. The full name of the facility had been Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium at Joe Jamail Field.
The school also will erect a statue for Julius Whittier, the Longhorns’ first Black football letterman, at Memorial Stadium. The athletes had demanded that part of the football stadium be named for Whittier.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis led to massive protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Since then, many institutions have moved to strip the names of historical figures associated with slavery and racism. Clemson removed the name of former vice president and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun from its honors college.
Campbell and Williams have released the following statements:
FROM EARL CAMPBELL:
“For countless days as young football players and upon being inducted to the Hall of Fame, Ricky and I have stood on this iconic field for many important points of our lives. We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names. The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received. It extends to all students, but specifically black athletes, who continue to work to define our collective motto ‘Winning with Integrity.’ Ricky and I are humbled by this honor.
We must acknowledge the Joe Jamail family for personally requesting and making this name change to the President of the University of Texas in the spirit of their father. Joe was always known for being a passionate, aggressive advocate of truth. We know he would have been proud to see this day arrive, both as a lawyer and a Longhorn.”
FROM RICKY WILLIAMS:
“Earl and myself are honored to be part of the momentum of change sweeping our alma mater, the University of Texas, the nation, and the world. We recognize the naming of Campbell/Williams Field is a historic moment and we urge our nation’s universities and communities to continue to reflect and review the history, symbolism, and identities that we place on monuments, public institutions, and sports organizations.
We request that this name change be a recognition of the achievement of a broad body of people and an ongoing commitment to diverse representation in the University of Texas athletic organization and student body. A new consciousness is rising and we are honored to be a part of it.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)