Bill to change fight song passes

Members of ASUU’s Senate and Assembly cast their votes for Joint Resolution 11 on paper. Colby Patterson

The words “I am a Utah Man” may not ring out across Rice Eccles Stadium anymore.

ASUU passed a motion to “strongly support” changes to the “Utah Man” fight song in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, April 22, less than 24 hours before new student body representatives take office.

A draft of potential changes will be sent to President David Pershing, who will “consider input from all stakeholders,” according to ASUU’s official Twitter account.

ASUU voted at the beginning of the meeting to override its bylaws, which stipulate that voting members must have at least seven days notice before hearing a bill. The meeting lasted more than three hours.

Marcus Chen, senate chair, said a meeting like this has not been called in his three years in the ASUU legislative branch.

The bill passed with cheers from several ASUU members. Sam Ortiz, ASUU president, hugged colleagues and blinked back tears.

The bill, which passed with a vote of 21-15 in the Assembly and 7-3 in the Senate, contained a resolution to change the words “man,” “coeds” and “fairest,” all words Ortiz deemed “exclusive.” One member from each body abstained from voting.

“This song symbolizes other issues facing our campus,” Ortiz said. “We face serious issues of racism and sexism. The fight song is not the cause, but it is parallel to the seriousness of those issues.”

Ortiz said he has heard complaints about the fight song since his freshman year at the U and has attempted to spend his term fighting for the inclusion of marginalized students.

Allison Boyer, an assembly representative, said the song was written when only 2.8 percent of all U students were female. Now women and gender non-conforming individuals make up nearly half of the student body. Boyer says the fight song does not represent them.

“It did not represent me when I identified as a woman, and it does not represent me now as a genderqueer individual,” Boyer said. “I will support Sam, and I will support these changes.”

Some students argued that “man” is an inclusive pronoun, referencing phrases like “mankind.” Mark Pittman, the bill’s cosponsor, said the song was not written to include women, indicating that the pronoun “man” was intended as a synonym for “male.”

“We keep using pronouns that the dictionary and men deem as inclusive when they’re not. They’re just plain not, and it’s not okay,” said Lydia Owens, an assembly representative.

Emilio Camu, a student representative, said the fight song’s supposed exclusivity may be a factor in the U’s low retention rates for women and students of color.

“For traditionally underrepresented people, this university is a shit show,” Camu said.

Some students did not take a side on the issue and argued that ASUU abstain from voting. Other representatives suggested that students and alumni have a vote.

“My biggest issue here is transparency,” said Cheston Newhall. “Many students don’t even know this event is occurring. We could have at least sent out an email.”

ASUU’s vote alone will not change the fight song.

“This vote is a symbolic vote,” said Ortiz. “We don’t have the power to change it and Pershing doesn’t have to listen. But we’re going to send a message today.”

Suggested changes to the song have not been finalized and ASUU encourages students to recommend alternative words and phrases.

“I feel like my hope is renewed in the ability of this university to make change,” Ortiz said.

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu
@allisonoctober