The chair of the Texas Board of Regents is taking aim at the University of Texas at San Antonio after the school stopped a tradition in which the school displayed a “Come and take it” flag at sporting events.
“The Board of Regents does not support abandoning traditions and history that mean much to students, alumni, and other Texans,” said Regents Chair Kevin Eltife in a statement issued September 8. “I am very disappointed with this decision and will immediately ask our Board to establish policies that ensure that the governing body of the UT System will have the opportunity in the future to be consulted before important university traditions and observances are changed.”
Traditionally, the school had unfurled a giant flag with the slogan over the student section during the fourth quarter of football games. The flag was accompanied by the firing of a cannon.
The phrase “Come and take it” originated in America during the Revolutionary War, but was co-opted by Texas troops during the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution in 1835.
According to the legend, Mexican troops loaned a cannon to the citizens of the town of Gonzales to protect them from Native Americans in the area. When the Mexican troops asked for the cannon back, the citizens raised a hand-made flag reading “Come and take it.”
Since then, the flag has become a symbol of Texas pride, and in 2011, during the school’s inaugural football season, UTSA began displaying it. The unfurling of the flag became an official tradition in 2016.
But earlier this year, UTSA president Taylor Eighmy announced the school would no longer be associating itself with the motto during sporting events.
“The history of Texas is steeped in the tradition of the ‘Come and Take It’ image,” Eighmy said in a statement emailed to the campus community in August. “However, the image can have sharply different meanings for different people. Recently, this imagery has been associated with some political movements and causes. It has even made its way into political protests on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.”
“For these and other reasons, there are concerns that this tradition may no longer reflect its originally intended purpose of rallying football fans and is not reflective of our university, our founding mission and our collective values,” wrote Eighmy.
“As the world evolves and we continue our trajectory as a Hispanic thriving institution, I want to challenge us to take what we do best—addressing issues by examining historical context, generating new knowledge and engaging in civil discourse—to develop thoughtful solutions with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and our community.”
The UTSA student body is 60 percent Hispanic and the school has been designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. government.
“I think the more that the public is starting to understand the context of things like the Battle of the Alamo and racial politics embedded in the Texas Revolution,” executive director of the Mexican American Civil Rights Sarah Zenaida Gould told The Texas Tribune. “I think that flag is only going to become more problematic if they let it stay.”
Eltife, who was appointed to the Board of Regents by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2019, rejected Eighmy’s reasoning.
“While he explained this was because of recent use of the flag by some groups for their particular causes and not connected to the flag’s historical context, such symbols have deep meaning for many Texans who value our state’s history,” Eltife said.
The Texas Tribune said that despite the school’s edict, fans at home games this season have begun to bring their own flags and chanting the phrase in the stands.
Read more here.
IMAGE: Denys Holovatiuk/Shutterstock