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University of Utah president agrees to consider changes in fight song some find sexist

Utah Fight Song Changes.JPEG

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2013, file photo, Utah players celebrate at the end of their NCAA college football game against Colorado, in Salt Lake City. University of Utah President David Pershing says he agrees it's time to consider some changes to the school fight song that some find sexist. Pershing announced Monday, May 5, 2014, he's asking the Office of Student Affairs to oversee a committee that will weigh a "modest update" in the song, "Utah Man." (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) (The Associated Press)

It's time for the University of Utah to consider tweaking parts of the school fight song that some find sexist, the school's president said Monday.

Proposals to adjust such lyrics as "I'm a Utah man" and "our coeds are the fairest" have spiked emotions on campus, where an instrumental version of the song played at last week's commencement.

Some contend that the current refrain honors tradition and has sentimental value for classes of alumni.

University President David Pershing is asking the Office of Student Affairs to put together a committee that will weigh changes to the song, "Utah Man" after student government leaders and a faculty body passed resolutions urging the changes.

"We are seeking a solution that respects the variety of views across our university community," he said in a statement.

Hundreds of emails regarding the fight song have flowed into Pershing's inbox in recent weeks, Pershing added.

The faculty's Academic Senate threw its support behind the effort on Monday after the Associated Students did so in April.

Pershing says any modifications to the 1904 tune must strike a balance between tradition and inclusion. He's asking students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to suggest new lyrics through May 31.

Co-chair of the Academic Senate's diversity committee Terry Kogan says a faculty member approached him a year ago after hearing it sung at a graduation ceremony.

At least two prior attempts to rework the song have surfaced in the last three decades, he told the Salt Lake Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/lz4gkqp).

"Utah man" could become "Utah fan," some have said, but no specific changes have officially been proposed.

Student government leaders at the University of Utah urged school officials in April to consider such changes.

"In 2014, people are advocating for equality on all fronts, so hopefully this is a reflection of that change," Associated Students President and social work student Sam Ortiz said in April.

The song dates back to 1904 and once contained the lyric "We drink our stein of lager and we smoke our big cigars." Officials replaced that part with the line referring to coeds.

There's no university policy or precedent for altering the fight song, said university spokeswoman Maria O'Mara. The committee of officials is scheduled to recommend specific changes by the end of June, but the president faces no deadline in making a final decision.

The issue rises amid other diversity-related news at the university. School officials and the Ute Indian Tribe in April struck a deal to maintain the "Runnin' Ute" title for school sports teams in exchange for increased recruiting and financial help geared at tribe members.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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