‘Eyes of Texas’ non-binding referendum postponed by Dean of Students office

Ireland Blouin, Senior News Reporter

The non-binding “Eyes of Texas” referendum, which was originally approved by the Office of the Dean of Students, was postponed for at least 45 days after Feb. 3.

Student Government assembly members voted on Feb. 7 to pass a bill condemning the school song for its racist history. In that same bill, the assembly allowed students to take part in a non-binding vote on if the song should be replaced. SG planned to hold the vote during the campus-wide election on Monday and Tuesday and to release the results of the referendum along with the election on March 6.

“A special election will be held after spring break,” Kevin Roberts, speaker of the assembly, said in an official statement released on the UTSG Assembly Twitter account. “Student Government is actively working to finalize the new date and details of the non-binding referendum.”

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, sent an email to Student Government leaders Feb. 13, stating that the referendum would no longer take place during the campus-wide election. The email stated the decision was due to concerns about the integrity of the process being polluted by a Tweet from the Student Government Assembly’s Twitter account. The Twitter account, at time of publication, had 39 followers.

The Feb. 3 tweet stated, “A non-binding referendum on The Eyes of Texas has been approved by the Office of the Dean of Students.” The tweet shared the ballot language which read, “Should the Eyes of Texas be replaced with a new school song?” At the bottom of the graphic in the Tweet, there is a disclaimer about a non-binding vote meaning that the results would “not directly dictate an outcome.”

“Based off of the email that was provided (to SG) that we’ve released because the post that went out on Twitter on the assembly page was, I guess, misleading,” Roberts said. “They thought it’d be best to delay the referendum.”

In March 2021, the University released a comprehensive report on the history of ‘“The Eyes of Texas.” A 24-person committee including current University students, alumni and faculty created the report, which determined that the song came about at a racist time, but “had no racist intent.”

SG has focused on the referendum for a while, because of student concern following social problems in America. Student Government President Leland Murphy said it was first proposed in the referendum last school year. SG hoped to garner student support and take student input into account.

“Especially since 2020 and the George Floyd protests, It’s constantly being brought up from all students, especially from many Black students about how the song is uncomfortable and how it makes them feel excluded from the University,” Murphy said. “So it’s something that we have heard a lot of concerns about, and the need for something more unifying, and more inclusive to the diverse student body that we have here at UT.”