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(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) John Smith, the infamous "H Man", and other Utah fans celebrate as the Utes face BYU at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, November 27, 2010.
Editorial: University of Utah can survive a fight song update

U. fight song worth the dialogue

First Published Apr 10 2014 05:44 pm • Last Updated Apr 11 2014 10:25 am

The University of Utah is a beacon on the hill. There is no larger contributor to the state’s intellectual and social progress.

You might not know that from the school’s fight song. The name itself, "Utah Man," is a dead giveaway. Then there’s the verse that says, "our coeds are the fairest." It’s not hard to see why there is movement to abandon the song or at least change it to remove the sexism.

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But, hey, it’s a fight song, the very idea of which sounds exceedingly male. We’re talking about a song that gets shouted at football games and frat parties. You were expecting "Wind Beneath My Wings"?

Student president Sam Ortiz is pushing a dialogue on the fight song, and he’s approaching it with the right attitude: " ... This, in my opinion, is really just a small thing we can do to make campus more inclusive and just let students know their voices are being heard."

School officials admit to what they can’t do, and that’s change the words that get sung. The lyrics printed on the university’s web site are not always what you hear in the stands. It turns out there are a lot of substitutes for "Ki!Yi!"

So Ortiz is right when he makes it more about the discussion. It’s school. Everything, even the fight song, is a learning opportunity.

One notion that has been floated for a while is to change Utah Man to Utah Fan. Presumably that means "our coeds are the fairest" becomes "our officially licensed team products are of highest quality."

Regardless, everyone should take a deep breath here. The traditionalists who want to keep the song are not bigots, and those who want to change are not bowing to political correctness. This can be managed without invoking the culture wars.

Even in "Utah Man," there are subtleties. This verse makes it clear that the song is not all just about machismo. It’s about … uh ... brotherhood?

"And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row, and arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go. No matter if a freshman green or in a senior’s gown, the people all admit we are the warmest gang in town."

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Surely the Utah men can unlock arms and let some women in. It will make the warmest gang a little cooler.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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