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UT president Jay Hartzell releases statement on latest controversy surrounding ‘The Eyes of Texas’

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Hartzell takes on Monday’s Texas Tribune article featuring racist emails from donors, as well as the alleged threats against players.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Texas Longhorns community plunged into controversy surrounding “The Eyes of Texas” once again when the Texas Tribune published emails from alumni and donors, some of whom threatened to withhold contributions to the school if it changed its alma mater.

The vast majority of emails sent to president Jay Hartzell, who took over last summer for Greg Fenves, demanded that the school keep the song. A small group of those emails were racist, including one from a donor whose name was redacted by the school.

“It’s time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost,” the donor wrote. “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.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Tribune publishing its article, former safety Caden Sterns shared on Twitter that alumni threatened to use their power to make sure players who protested the song could not get jobs in the state.

Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown received death threats.

On Tuesday, Hartzell responded to Monday’s controversy in a statement.

“People who target our students with hateful views do not represent the values of the Longhorn community. 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. I categorically reject them, and they bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making,” Hartzell wrote.

“The fact that we don’t all agree on our school song doesn’t mean that we don’t all belong. Next week, the Eyes of Texas History Committee will release its report. Equipped with a common set of facts, we will then continue the conversation about our song. Having spoken to students and faculty on the committee, I truly believe we can be a model for how communities address complex problems and move forward together.”

Hartzell commissioned the history study for the song in November. Featuring two dozen faculty scholars, students and alumni, including athletes and Longhorn Band representatives, the committee was charged with documenting the song’s 120-year history.