Chicago — Alumni donors threaten to pull donations from UT-Austin if the university’s president does not take a stronger stance supporting the university’s alma mater song.
In June, student-athletes demanded that the university take steps to better support Black students, including removing “The Eyes of Texas,” a song with ties to minstrel shows. The title is also linked to a saying by Confederate Army Commander Robert E. Lee, is a painful reminder of this country’s relationship with racism.
A month after the demand, the university decided to keep playing the song. This decision was not enough to keep alumni donors at ease.
After players walked off the field, leaving then-quarterback Sam Ehlinger alone to complete the tradition of singing the alma mater song post-game, alumni donors’ discontent was inflamed once again.
The Texas Tribune obtained emails sent to University President Jay Hartzell by alumni donors. Here is what they had to say:
“Has everyone become oblivious of who supports athletics??” wrote one donor, whose name was redacted by UT-Austin to protect donor identity. He and his wife have donated over $1 million, which he noted “could very easily be rescinded” if things did not change.
About 300 people emailed Hartzell about “The Eyes of Texas,” with 70% demanding the song remain.
"UT needs rich donors who love The Eyes of Texas more than they need one crop of irresponsible and uninformed students or faculty who won't do what they are paid to do," wrote UT-Austin law school graduate and retired administrative law judge Steven Arnold.
Some emails expressed hostile sentiments toward Black students, who make up a little over 5% of the student body.
“It’s time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost,” wrote a 1986 graduate to Hartzell. “It is sad that it is offending the blacks. As I said before the blacks are free and it's time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor.”
Keeping the song, however, is certainly not favored by all.
A small number of alumni emailed Hartzell with pleas to remove the song, and some even provided alternate lyrics.
“If something offends a certain demographic of people, and they’ve been outspoken about it, and they have every right to be offended by it, I think we should be listening to them,” Freshman Madison Morris told the Tribune.