Posted on September 8, 2021

Texas NAACP, Students File Federal Civil Rights Complaint over UT-Austin’s ‘Eyes of Texas’

Kate McGee, Texas Tribune, September 7, 2021

The Texas chapter of the NAACP, along with the civil rights organization’s University of Texas at Austin chapter and a group of anonymous students, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights alleging UT-Austin is creating a “hostile environment” for Black students by continuing to play the “The Eyes of Texas” alma mater song at university events.

The complaint, filed Friday morning, 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.” The song premiered at a minstrel show in the early 1900s where students likely wore blackface. Despite pushback, university officials have said they are going to keep the song as their alma mater, concluding in a report issued earlier this year that the song “had no racist intent.”

The complaint, provided to The Texas Tribune by the filers, says the university has failed to respond to racial harassment against Black students and others who oppose the song, violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and argues the university’s decision to create a separate marching band for students who do not want to play “The Eyes of Texas” violates equal protections afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment.

This past spring, the UT-Austin Butler School of Music announced the creation of a new band in which students would not be required to play the song after members of the Longhorn Band refused to play it last fall due to its history and origins. Students in the Longhorn band are required to play the song.


This latest move by the local NAACP chapters came one day before the start of the football season. The Longhorn Band plays the song, and those games have been where much of the controversy surrounding the song played out. A little over a year ago, a group of UT football players called for the school to discontinue using the song. The debate touched many parts of the university community, from athletics and academics to fundraising and student organizations. On Saturday, the band played the song and players stayed on the field for the postgame singalong tradition without a major issue. Football coach Steve Sarkisian said in January that “‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song. We’re going to sing that song. We’re going to sing that proudly.”

{snip} Last month, a group of students protested the song at an event welcoming new students to campus for the fall semester. Some students also staged a walkout at graduation last spring when the song played.