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University asks public to help rewrite 'Utah Man' fight song

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The president of Utah's flagship university is seeking public input on a proposal to partially rewrite the school's century-old fight song "Utah Man," amid complaints that it contains language that could be considered sexist or racist.

Student leaders at the University of Utah last week called on the school to change some of the song's lyrics, objecting to such phrases as "our coeds are the fairest."

The resolution sparked considerable public debate both on campus and off. Hundreds of emails on the issue have flooded the university's administrative offices, prompting President David Pershing to act, the university said in a statement issued late on Monday.

Students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans of the University of Utah can make suggestions about the song to the school until May 31.

A student affairs committee will evaluate the suggestions and recommend any action or lyric changes to the university's administrative leaders by the end of June. There is no precedent in school policy for making changes to the fight song, according to Pershing's office.

"We appreciate the U's students, dedicated alumni and friends all have strong feelings on this issue," Pershing said in the statement. "The history of our fight song and other cherished customs has many chapters. I hope this one will be remembered for cooperation and courtesy."

Sam Ortiz, the outgoing University of Utah student body president who initiated the resolution effort, could not immediately be reached for comment on the move.

Ortiz has said some of the changes already proposed for the song include altering the title from "Utah Man," to "Utah Fan," and swapping out the line about the school's fair coeds for one that reads "out students are the brightest."

Opponents of the changes mainly object to altering a long-held tradition. The song, written in 1904 by then-university football coach Harvey Holmes, is popular and is frequently sung at school sporting events.

The Utes compete in the NCAA's Pacific 12 Conference.

Historically, many U.S. universities have changed nicknames or fight songs for reasons including racial sensitivity or because terms had become outdated.

The university was founded in 1850 as the University of Deseret by a board established by then-Mormon church President Brigham Young. Utah was not yet a state and the territory was predominately populated by white Mormon settlers and Native Americans.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and G Crosse)

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