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Editorial: No more fighting over Ute fight song

No more fighting over fight song.

First Published Jul 09 2014 05:11 pm • Last Updated Aug 28 2014 11:28 pm

Witch King: "No man can kill me."

Princess Eowyn: "I am no man."

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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

If the physics, chemistry and engineering professors at the University of Utah still used the same lectures and texts, still taught the same theories and facts, as they did in 1904, they might find it hard to keep their jobs.

At the same time, a full understanding of what we know is incomplete without the history, Neil deGrasse Tyson-style, of how we came to know it.

That’s why University President David Pershing made the correct academic call when he ruled recently that the official version of the Ute fight song will see several changes to properly accommodate modern sensibilities.

But Pershing also rightly made it clear that there will be no Song Police at U. football games or other festivities. That he hopes that students, alumni, fans and friends will belt out whatever version of the song gets them in the proper fighting mood.

It is a calming resolution to a major fuss over a minor academic matter. It illustrates what’s known as Sayre’s law, stated a half-century ago by Columbia University professor Wallace Stanley Sayre: "The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low."

The fight song debate was often intense, as those who favored the old version — current students and alumni — complained of needlessly fiddling with an old favorite due to some meddlesome kids and their political correctness.

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That doesn’t mean that U. student government leaders were wrong to raise the issue last year. They were echoing the concerns of their constituents — current students — that a song referring to every Ute fan as a "Utah man," going to a school where "the co-eds are the fairest," was a relic of another age that didn’t help all tuition-paying students feel welcome.

So, in the official version of the fight song, the bit, "our coeds are the fairest" will become, "our students are the finest." And, "no other gang of college men" will be updated to, "no rival band of college fans."

Printed versions will also offer the classic alternative "Utah Man" to accompany the new "Utah Fan."

There is every reason to believe that memories, and yellowed copies, will preserve the old lyrics. And the even older bits, cheering about, "We drink our stein of lager and smoke our big cigars."

Go Utes!

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

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