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Separate but unequal: UT community divided by unnamed new band that won’t be required to play 'The Eyes of Texas'
University of Texas at Austin faculty and student groups are critical of a plan to create a new band whose members won't be required to play "The Eyes of Texas," the embattled alma mater at the center of a year-long controversy.
"The creation of a separate band does not solve the problem," said Alberto Martinez, a professor of history at UT who has researched the song's racist origins. "The solution of inviting Black students who dislike the song in the band to leave the band is frankly offensive."
UT band members are required to play "The Eyes of Texas." But starting in fall 2022, objectors can join the new, as-yet-unnamed band.
UT officials tout the plan as a solution to the controversial school song, which has divided the campus community and prompted revelatory reporting about deep-pocketed donors who pressured the university to keep the alma mater. But others think the plan will do little to quell tensions.
It remains unclear how many Longhorn Band members will opt to join the new university band next year. But a number have spoken out against "The Eyes of Texas."
Judson Hayden, president of LH Blacks, the Longhorn Band's first-ever Black student group, told the Austin Chronicle in November that he would never play the song again, months before the university announced its separate band plan. Mercy Ogunlade, an LHBlacks member and clarinet section leader, said she would neither teach nor perform the song in the same article.
Hayden, who has said he's faced online attacks for speaking about the issue publicly, and other LHBlacks members did not respond to requests for comment.
The Longhorn Band did not participate in a Texas vs. Baylor football game last October after an internal survey revealed there weren't enough members willing to play the song. Former Longhorn Band Director Scott Hanna wrote that the band was "fairly evenly divided in opinion" in a message obtained by The Daily Texan at the time. UT President Jay Hartzell later issued a statement saying that the band was never expected to play at the game.
Dr. Cliff Croomes, the recently appointed first Black Longhorn Band director, recently told KXAN that he plans to listen to members' opinions about the song, but added: "When it comes to the ball games, we will be playing 'The Eyes of Texas' as a Longhorn Band and, as is customary, I'll be on the ladder leading in those efforts."
Support on campus
The Daily Texan Editorial Board criticized UT's second band plan in a June 15 opinion piece. "By separating the Longhorn Band over an issue as indisputably bigoted as 'The Eyes of Texas,' the University proves once again that it adheres to donors and traditions over the will of its student body—especially that of its Black students," the board wrote. "All students deserve to feel comfortable joining the official, longstanding Longhorn Band: an undivided band that shouldn't play the racist song at all."
Dozens of student campus tour guides went on strike early last month after the university wouldn't commit to removing a plaque with "The Eyes of Texas" lyrics hanging in the Admissions Welcome Center.
The Texas Orange Jackets, the oldest honorary service organization at the university, hosted a virtual conversation with Martinez, the history professor, about the song's origins on April 29. (An unknown man crashed the Zoom event and appeared to load a large gun.)
"Our organization has had a history of upholding this school song rooted in anti-Blackness," the group wrote in an April 23 Facebook post promoting the event. "It's our full responsibility to confront this history, diverge from it, and uplift the voices that challenge this institution."
Zion James, an undergraduate student and member of the Black Student Alliance, suggested the university stands to lose Black students over its handling of the controversy at a March 29 press conference.
"As Black students we're conflicted on how we're told to transfer or choose another school," he said at the event. "Yet without any Black presence on our campus there would be no (Perry-Castaneda Library), no Duren Hall, no Martin Luther King Jr. statue or sports team to keep our school with great revenue."
Creating a "second, unnamed band" feels and looks very exclusionary.— jimmy (@spacejam_es) April 22, 2021
Essentially, the university is telling Longhorn band members "If you won't uphold and partake in a racist tradition, then join another band."
what is the eyes of texas, if not racism persevering ✨— Audra Antoinette🎀 (@audraantoinette) March 9, 2021
'Not overtly racist'
Student opponents have found allies off campus, including members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, state and local NAACP chapter presidents and UT alumni. But they have also encountered critics.
"There was research done and a committee," Ann Sandoval commented on the Orange Jackets' event post. "So you now just undermine the university and disrupt? … Shameful. I am now contacting my Orange Jacket alumni friends."
The controversy began last summer after mass protests against police violence and racial injustice shed new light on long-standing concerns about "The Eyes of Texas," including its debut at a minstrel show and whether it was connected to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who allegedly often said "the eyes of the South are upon you."
Hartzell announced that the song would remain the university's alma mater on July 13 and then the formation of a 24-person committee—made up of faculty members, athletes, band members and alumni—to review the song's origins on Oct. 6.
The committee's 58-page report, released on March 9, found "that the intent of 'The Eyes of Texas' was not overtly racist," even though "the cultural milieu that produced it was," and offered 40 recommendations for healing the division sowed by the song.
Martinez published two Medium articles, on March 24 and May 8, based on his own research into the song's history, which contradict the committee's findings and list out 100 problems with the song. "I don't think it's going to become any easier for the university to just shrug this off, to move on or move forward or any of the other euphemisms that are used to say, 'We choose to ignore the complaints of the Black students," he said.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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