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Texas announces plan to address requests from athletes as ‘The Eyes of Texas’ remains

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The school will make some key changes to foster a “more diverse and welcoming campus,” but declined to act on several other requests like removing “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater.

University Of Texas Tower Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“The Eyes of Texas” remains the school’s alma mater.

In a Monday release from the Texas Longhorns, interim university president Jay Hartzell shared the results of a month-long conversation to address June requests from athletes and conversations with students aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion on campus.

“I came out of them realizing there is still more work to do — and that this work starts and ends by creating an environment in which students, faculty and staff are fully supported before, during and after their time at UT,” Hartzell wrote.

The announcement that the school will not remove The Eyes of Texas as the alma mater was only one part of a sweeping plan to overhaul campus life for Black students that nonetheless declined to address several key requests made last month.

“We aim to hold the athletic department and university to a higher standard by not only asking them to keep their promise of condemning racism on our campus, but to go beyond this by taking action to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program,” Texas athletes wrote in a statement released on social media in June.

The statement included a list of requests that the administration would address through “implementation or a plan for implementation at the start of the fall semester.”

The university responded to several of those requests.

The Robert Lee Moore Building will become the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building, complete with historical explanations about why university leaders named the building for Moore.

Other buildings will retain their current names, including TS Painter Hall, which will receive a statue of Herman M. Sweatt, the Texas student who took his case against Painter to the Supreme Court in order to integrate the school in 1950. The school will also redesign, reimagine, and rededicate part of the building as an exhibit and gathering place to honor and provide context to the story of Sweatt v. Painter.

Remaining statues and names on buildings, like those of Confederate leader George W. Littlefield and Texas governor James Hogg, who signed the state’s first Jim Crow laws, will receive additional history and context through new plaques and/or a website explaining that history and context.

A new monument in the East Mall will honor “The Precursors,” the first Black undergraduates to attend Texas.

Athletes requested an area of Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial stadium named after Juluis Whittier, the first Black football player at Texas, and will receive a statue of Whittier at the stadium. The school did not address the request to build a permanent Black athlete history exhibit in the stadium’s north end zone at the Athletics Hall of Fame.

The biggest change at the stadium was not among the requests. It’s the new name for the field — at the request of Joe Jamail’s family, the field will now honor the Heisman-winning careers of Texas running backs Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.

The school also outlined a number of plans designed “to recruit, attract, retain and support talented and diverse students, faculty and staff,” but will not donate to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Hartzell and athletics Chris Del Conte did tell football players last month that singing The Eyes of Texas after games is no longer a requirement, but the university declined to remove it as the school’s alma mater. However, the school did promise to “own, acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of The Eyes of Texas as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community.”

By doing so, the school believes that it 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.”

“Together, we have the power to define what the Eyes of Texas expect of us, what they demand of us, and what standard they hold us to now,” Hartzell wrote. “The Eyes of Texas” should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values. But we first must own the history. Only then can we reimagine its future, and I look forward to partnering with our campus community to do just that.”