The University of Utah has agreed to change the lyrics to its 114-year-old “Utah Man” fight song after some students complained it was sexist and oppressive – this despite the fact that most people who weighed in on the issue did not want it to be altered.
But the old lyrics “marginalized” some students and the campus wanted to be more “inclusive,” an administrator told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The new lyrics were developed by a committee of faculty, students and alumni after the student government in April passed a resolution declaring the “Utah Man” song “can reasonably be interpreted as (a) reminder of a status given to male students or men as representatives of all students, even though many students … do not identify as men or being a man.”
The students also voted to change a stanza in that song that proclaimed “our coeds are the fairest.”
“This phrase can be reasonably interpreted as objectifying women on campus while also supporting a hierarchy built on complexion and skin tone, privileging a light or ‘fair’ appearance,” the resolution stated.
The newly released changes – which the university says are voluntary – adds the word “man” with “fan,” (people can choose which one they prefer), updates “our coeds are the fairest” with “our students are the finest,” and changes “no other gang of college men” with “no rival band of college fans,” Fox News reports.
“We think that it’s important that members of our community know that we listen to them, and that we care about them feeling included,” Barbara Snyder, vice president of student affairs, told Fox News. “We didn’t want the fight song to be something that divided people. We wanted it to be something that pulled people together.”
The song, written in 1904, is performed at commencement as well as at sporting events. But it did not sit well with some students.
“It did not represent me when I identified as a woman, and it does not represent me now as a genderqueer individual,” student government representative Allison Boyer had told the Daily Utah Chronicle campus newspaper.
“We face serious issues of racism and sexism,” said student government President Sam Ortiz during the student government debate. “The fight song is not the cause, but it is parallel to the seriousness of those issues.”
With that, the lyrics were changed, even though the Salt Lake Tribune reports that a majority of the emails to administrators about the controversy expressed opposition to altering the song.
“We want to respect and preserve tradition, but we also want to be inclusive to all members of our community,” Snyder told the Tribune, adding “there were some members of the university community who felt marginalized by the existing lyrics, and we thought it was time to look at updating them.”
But as of late Wednesday, hundreds of comments on the university’s official Facebook page overwhelmingly disapproved of the decision.
“Congrats to the U for ignoring the wishes of not just the majority, but the VAST majority,” stated Christian Jackson.
“I hope those that were behind changing the word know that this will cause 98 percent of the crowd to yell ‘MAN’ 10 times louder than ever before,” posted Sara Hildebrand. “This is so stupid. What a waste of time and effort. There are better things to whine about rather than changing a powerful and traditional fight song.”
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( @JenniferKabbany )