Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Looking back to look forward: what happened to ‘The Eyes of Texas’ referendum, LGBTQIA+ State of Affairs report

Lorianne Willett

Student government is planning another attempt at a non-binding referendum for “The Eyes of Texas” after the Office of the Dean of Students postponed the original vote last spring. 

While the new referendum has not been confirmed for next semester, Kennedy Bailey, Speaker of the Assembly, said the ideal plan is to have students vote in the campus-wide elections in February 2024, with UT Student Government holding an education campaign leading up to the vote so students can learn more about the song’s history before making their decision.

“(There’s) this constant cycle of student leaders, like student government, making promises and not following through on those things, and we don’t want that to happen again,” said Bailey, a government and race, indigeneity and migration junior. “This is a sensitive issue, and it’s something that means a lot to people and has been promised a lot of times, and nothing has ever happened.” 

Because UTSG is a sponsored student organization, it’s supervised by the Dean of Students office. Bailey said UTSG has been meeting with an advisor to ensure the vote is conducted in a non-biased manner, per the office’s guidelines, and there’s no miscommunication about UTSG’s intentions with the referendum. 

“Our student governance organization advisor, and all Dean of Students staff with advisor responsibilities, advise all Student Governance Organizations using history, context, and support navigating how their governing documents, university policy, and system rules shape their work as sponsored student organizations,” the office wrote in an emailed statement when asked about its guidance through the referendum process. 

Bailey said student government won’t rush the process and intends to get input from student communities who are most impacted by the song’s history.

Additionally, she said they’ve created stricter communication oversight within UTSG to avoid another miscommunication scenario, like the potentially misleading Tweet that led the office to shut down the referendum.

“We developed this mindset of ‘We’ve got one shot at this,’” Bailey said. “If we mess up again, there’s not ever going to be a referendum.” 

Student government is continuing its push for the University to implement the 48 recommendations outlined in the State of LGBTQIA+ Affairs report, which the Queer & Trans Student Alliance released in February 2022. 

UTSG Chief of Staff Christian Mira said the University has shown the most progress in creating a gender-inclusive housing option for students, a recommendation listed in the report. Mira said University Housing and Dining is undergoing a pilot program of its Family and Friend Expanded Roommate Option, which allows students living in certain residence halls to select any UT student as a roommate, regardless of gender identity. Mira said the administration has not communicated to UTSG whether or not the pilot program will become permanent. 

This is just one of many recommendations provided by students, though. Mira said there are suggestions for promoting inclusivity on campus that should be easy for the University to implement, such as providing a pronoun option in the UT Directory. 

Mira said it’s unclear how Senate Bill 17 will impact the University’s ability to implement more recommendations after Jan 1., as UTSG will not be allowed to promote anything for the purpose of diversity, equity or inclusion. Because of SB 17 limitations for the University and student government, Mira said he expects that LGBTQ+ student organizations, which are not banned by SB 17 will have to spearhead future inclusivity efforts on campus.

“Our internal conversations are based on protecting as much as we can,” Mira said. “We’re trying to come as prepared as we can so that when we speak to administration, they can also understand our viewpoints.”

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About the Contributors
Sarah Brager, General News Reporter
Sarah is a journalism junior from Buda, Texas. She's currently a senior news reporter, and she previously worked as a life and arts reporter and an opinion columnist. When she's not reporting for the Texan, Sarah loves hiking, drinking outrageous amounts of coffee and doing crossword puzzles.
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.