The forum, held Friday afternoon, was called “A Utah Man Am I?” and discussed the proposed changes to the song. Four people from the U community who represent different interests of the university sat on the panel.
“It’s inevitable that regardless of the end result, whether the song’s lyrics are changed or not, we’re going to have people offended. We’re going to have people who may feel marginalized,” said Annie Christensen, the special assistant to the vice president for student affairs.
Such was the tone of the discussion as the panel explored the same questions that have been debated since ASUU voted to support altering the song to make it less gender specific and more inclusive.
The changes centered around the word “man” and the phrase “our coeds are the fairest.” One of the panelists, Courtney McBeth, a former soccer player and graduate from the U who now serves as the associate director of the Hinckley Institute, said though she claims loyalty to the university’s athletic teams, she felt uncomfortable singing the song since she was a freshman.
“To me, the words of our song are antiquated. They’re steeped in a time when women couldn’t even vote, when the large majority of our population was segregated and not able to vote or participate actively,” she said. “To me, the amazing ability of this university is to reflect change and inclusion in our society.”
Natalie Harris, a fundraiser in the U’s Development Office, countered McBeth’s thoughts about the song. She does not feel the line “our coeds are the fairest” refers to skin color and she has no personal affliction with the term “man.”
“I actually take pride in calling myself a Utah Man,” Harris said. “I think it’s something that is very meaningful to me, but also to an entire lineage of Utah alums in my family.”
While the discussion was mostly civil, the majority of the crowd was in favor of change. Each time a comment was made in regards to adapting the song, they cheered. But Harris said there will always be disagreement.
“People need to learn to choose what to be offended by,” Harris said.
Sarah Paul, a junior in nursing and a member of the MUSS board, said she both came and left the forum opposed to the song being changed. She said it was valuable to hear opposing views from her own.
“I think it’s important that we have these discussions because before I came in this room, I didn’t fully understand both sides of the argument,” Paul said. “I think it was healthy and I think it was progressive toward deciding what the right choice will be and whether to change it or not.”