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(Robert Igar)

A group of University of Texas at Austin students walked out of their own commencement ceremony, protesting the university's continued use of "The Eyes of Texas" as the school song.

The song, which was written in 1903 with lyrics traced back to Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, has been linked to campus minstrel shows and blackface. It is usually played at UT sporting events and commencement.

In a group on Facebook, the students announced that they would walk out of their 8 p.m. Saturday ceremony toward the end of the programming when the song began. 153 people responded to the group and a report from the Austin American Statesman said "several" students walked out, several comments, including one in the Facebook group reading "some big protest," said not as many students walked out as expected.

"UT's administration may be swayed by powerful donors who are committed to keeping white supremacy alive at UT, but we, as students and now alums, can express support for the Black students, alumni, and faculty who have been harmed by this song for over 100 years," the page said.

The song has also been opposed by University of Texas history professor Dr. Alberto Martínez, who wrote a report titled "100 Problems in the 'Eyes of Texas," a long list of reasons why he believes the school should change the song.

After a 24-person committee ruled that the song had "no racist intent" in March, the university announced it would continue to play the song at events. Emails obtained by the Texas Tribune show that some of UT's wealthy donors and alumni threatened to pull their support if the school didn't oppose "cancel culture."

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus, some Austin-area Black lawmakers, civil rights leaders, students and alumni are continuing to work with the school to change the decision and starting fall 2022, there will be two bands: one that plays the song and one that doesn't.


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