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New year, same issues: UT students protest 'Eyes of Texas' at back-to-school event

As hundreds gathered for the annual "Gone To Texas" event, around two dozen students bore signs and chanted in protest of the controversial "Eyes of Texas" alma mater. (Cops off Campus UT/Twitter)

It's the first day of classes at the University of Texas, and some students have already made it known once more that they disapprove of the "Eyes of Texas," the school's controversial alma mater.

There was plenty of liveliness at 'Gone to Texas,' the school's biggest back-to-classes event, as students and staff celebrated what was held entirely online last year. But around two dozen students went to protest the controversial alma mater, which has been accused of having a racist past, showing that contention over the song lingers into this school year.

As the Longhorn band performed a slew of songs, including the 'Eyes,' students chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, The Eyes of Texas has got to go" and bore a sign that read "Students and Workers Demand Cops off Campus."

The protest proves that last year's issues at the university are still unresolved after President Jay Hartzell ruled that the Longhorn Band would continue to play the alma mater despite allegations of racist origins. A UT investigation on the subject, which was conducted after many Longhorn athletes and band members refused to participate in the song, found that the song had "no clear racist intent" but likely debuted at a minstrel show where students were wearing blackface.

Among the protesters were members of Cops Off Campus UT, Underpaid at UT and UTexas Direct Action.

Activists told the Statesman that they attended the event because of its size and its target audience—incoming freshmen, who may not have heard of the song's storied past.

Protesters passed out a zine on the subject to incoming freshmen titled "Eyes Upon You: A Zine About the Troubled Past and Present of The University of Texas at Austin."

In the zine, Cops off Campus writes that "The University of Texas at Austin has been a place of political controversy and social turmoil from its very conception" as it addresses issues including the alma mater, COVID-19 protocols, working conditions for graduate students and sexual misconduct allegations.

Protestors were joined by dozens of incoming students by the end of the event, chanting phrases including "Cops off Campus" and "No justice, no peace."


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