Student leaders tell University of Utah president to change ‘Utah Man’ fight song
Inclusiveness • “Utah Man” lyrics written in 1904 should be altered, the resolution says.
Published: April 23, 2014 12:13PM
Updated: April 23, 2014 10:05AM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune University of Utah students head to class on April 8. The student government on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, voted to urge universityadministrators to change lyrics for the school's fight song, “Utah Man.” Some lyrics of “Utah Man” can be considered sexist and racist.

University of Utah student leaders voted Tuesday to “strongly encourage” the institution to change the words of the school fight song.

The joint resolution goes to University President David Pershing, who will decide what to do next with “Utah Man.”

“I don’t want to get rid of tradition, I love tradition, I just want a more inclusive tradition,” said student body president Sam Ortiz, who sponsored the measure. “I’m incredibly happy that our student leaders stepped up and made a difficult decision.”

Some of the lyrics, especially the line “Our coeds are the fairest,” can be considered sexist and racist. Written in 1904, the song is “symbolic of other issues our campus is facing,” Ortiz said.

The resolution doesn’t recommend specific changes, but some have suggested switching “Utah man” to “Utah fan.” 

Pershing may send the measure on to the faculty senate. No changes would be made until next school year at the earliest.

The song, beloved by many students, sports fans and alumni, became an issue of charged statewide debate after the Associated Students of the University of Utah first voted to open the discussion last month. Ortiz said he’d gotten an “almost overwhelming” amount of hate mail, and another supporter, Rep. Lydia Owens, said she’d also gotten threats. The chief of the University of Utah police was on hand during Tuesday’s meeting.

During the nearly three-hour debate on the song, several students said there hadn’t been enough notice about the special session held during finals week, just before a new president will be sworn in.

“Is it responsible to hold a meeting to debate a 110-year-old tradition with 10 days of public notice?” said Rep. Cheston Newhall, serving in a proxy role for the meeting. “I like the fight song … I’d be sad to see it go.”

Rep. James Thatchersaid he was in favor of the changes, but thought there should be more debate.

“If it’s so divisive, shouldn’t we talk about it more?” he said. “I just felt like this meeting was held too quickly.”

Rep. Mark Pittman, though, said it was time for a vote.

“You can only kick the can so far. If we don’t take a stand, people are going to be oppressed even more,” he said.

Owens said some traditions should change.

“If we stuck to tradition, there would be no interracial marriage and women wouldn’t have the vote,” she said. “I am not represented in that song.”

But another female student representative said she felt like the song’s “man” was meant to include everyone, and Rep. Ashley Newhall said she’d gotten some unfair pushback for supporting the song.

“I’ve been called sexist and racist for standing up for what I believe in,” she said. 

The vote was 21-15 in the House and 7-3 in the Senate of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, with one abstention from each for the sponsors.

“It’s not that we’re getting rid of the whole fight song, it’s just three words,” said Rep. Allison Boyer, referring to man, coeds and fairest. “This is very exciting. It’s going to make students proud of how the university is moving forward.”

Lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst