University of Utah supporters could soon be singing a new fight song for the first time in over a century after the student government voted on a resolution to change the lyrics of “Utah Man” because of its sexist and racial overtones.
Members of the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) alleged that the title and some of the lyrics are “problematic” and could lead to “feelings of exclusion” for some students, specifically minorities and women.
“It’s time for a change,” student-government president Sam Ortiz told the Deseret News, describing the current version as “divisive.”
Ortiz and others point to the song’s gender- and race-specific lyrics as the issue. For example, the chorus of the song repeatedly makes references to being “a Utah man”:
Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die; Ki! Yi!
We’re up to snuff; we never bluff,
We’re game for any fuss,
No other gang of college men
dare meet us in the muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and
shout it to the sky,
We’ll fight for dear old Crimson,–
for a Utah man am I.
The male-centered lyrics could lead students who “do not identify as men or being a man” to feel excluded from the campus community, the resolution states.
Additionally, members took issue with a lyric in the first verse that states “Our coeds are the fairest.” The resolution argues the line is “supporting a hierarchy built on complexion and skin tone, privileging a light or ‘fair’ appearance.”
Alison Boyer, a member of the ASUU Assembly, said that not changing the song is “allowing hurtful speech to be perpetrated” on campus. Another member, Lydia Owens, compared keeping the current song to opposing interracial marriage and denying women’s suffrage.
“If we stuck to tradition, there would be no interracial marriage and women wouldn’t have the vote,” she told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Ultimately, both houses of the ASUU bodies passed the measure with a sizeable margin. The Student Assembly approved it with a 21–15 vote; the resolution passed 7–3 in the Senate.
Red Alert Politics reports that alternatives to the lyrics have been offered by the students. For example, they recommended using “I am a Utah fan” to replace “I am a Utah man”; “our students are the brightest” would be in place of “our coeds are the fairest.”
The suggested changes were sent to university president David Pershing. If he follows suit with the ASUU, the updated version of “Utah Man” — or “Utah Fan” — could be sung in Rice-Eccles Stadium and other campus facilities as soon as this coming fall.
Harvey Holmes, one of the university’s first football coaches, wrote the song in 1904. Below is a version of the current song:
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.