The Texas state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education alongside the University of Texas at Austin chapter and a group of anonymous students on Friday. They argue that UT is creating a “hostile environment” for black students by continuing to play the alma mater song “The Eyes of Texas” at college events.
First performed in 1903 at a minstrel show by white students in blackface, the anthem has divided the Longhorn community, pitting administrators and wealthy donors against students and faculty who want the university to abolish it and write a new alma mater. University leaders had hoped to quell the uproar over “The Eyes of Texas” after a committee issued a report in March determining that the song had “no racist intent,” though this conclusion has since been brought under heavy academic scrutiny. The complaint filed Friday reiterated the view that the university committee had failed to fully explore the song’s history.
After administrators doubled down on the position that it would remain a central feature of university life, tension escalated, with student campus tour guides going on strike, pleas from Black legislators to lose the song and threats by wealthy alumni to cut off donations. In response to refusal by members of the Longhorn Band to play the song last Spring, the UT-Austin Butler School of Music announced the creation of a separate marching band. The recent complaint argues that the separation violates equal protections afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The recent complaint also alleges that Black students have been denied full benefits of Longhorn student life because the song is an official part of the university “despite its racially offensive origin, context and meaning,” and accuses the university of failing to respond to racial harassment against Black students who oppose it.