Fight over Tech’s fight song continues

A young fan dressed in a mock cheerleading uniform cheers on the Jackets from the stands during the 2019 UGA game. SGA will hold a referendum vote to survey the student body on proposed changes to the fight song. // Photo by Taylor Gray Student Publications

Recently, a change to the lyrics of the Tech fight song was proposed by the school chairs to the faculty senate and executive board. This years-in-the-making proposal is now awaiting input from all members of the Tech community.

The proposed change surrounds the second verse of “The Ramblin’ Wreck” fight song, where the lyrics state “Oh! If I had a daughter, sir, I’d dress her in White and Gold, And put her on the campus to cheer the brave and bold.”

The school chairs requested that the word “cheer” be replaced with “join” to better “honor and encourage women students,” according to their official request to the faculty executive board on Feb. 23.

Changing the lyrics to the fight song has had a long history at Tech, the most recent effort culminating in 2015. Martha Grover, ChBE professor, said she first got the idea for the change from fellow ChBE professor Ron Rousseau during a PhD commencement in 2008.

“I asked him what he thought of that passage, because it did not sound right to me. He suggested changing the word cheer to join,” Grover said about first considering the idea. In 2015, she helped to create jointhebraveandbold.gatech.edu to educate and gather input on the change.

The website featured a petition for people to sign in support, and soon after an opposition petition was created for those wanting to keep the current lyrics. It has amassed 2,572 supporters to date.

In 2015, SGA surveyed students and alumni on the proposed change. 68% of student respondents and 82% of alumni respondents voted to keep the current lyrics.

“I think the school chairs felt like this is one part of what we can do in terms of continuing to promote equity and inclusion on campus,” said David Sholl, School Chair for the ChBE Department, who presented the chairs’ request to the faculty executive board.

All school chairs back the lyric change, and the document was presented to both the faculty senate and executive board.

“We decided to present this idea to President Cabrera, and his very wise thinking on this was that he wanted to then get information and feedback from a wide array of different people on campus,” said Sholl.

As part of the initiative to survey many parts of the Tech community, SGA will hold a referendum on the issue during their upcoming election season. On March 10, an email was sent out to students explaining the upcoming referendum.

It explained the questions that will be on the referendum and stated, “Voting will take place from March 22-26 at elections.gatech.edu, so be sure to make your opinion heard!”

The email further explained that the referendum will not be the ultimate factor in deciding whether or not to change the lyrics, but will serve to gauge the student body’s general opinion.

Currently, SGA does not have an official stance on the issue, according to Undergraduate President Brielle Lonsberry.

Throughout the years there have been multiple proponents and opponents of the lyric change. One person that helped Grover develop the original website in 2015 was Robert Butera, EE ’91 and current EE and BMED professor. Butera published his opinions on the matter during their last effort as both an alumnus and current faculty member.

“I find this proposed change ideal in that it sends a clear message to the world of what GT is today, without wrecking anything about what GT has been,” Butera wrote on his lab site.

He also spoke on the impact of the minute change.

“While it is one word, the very act of changing it sends a strong positive message to the world and does nothing to compromise any of the great traditions of this school,” he said.

Others disagree with the change and see no problem with the current lyrics.

A recent thread on the Tech sports forum, Sting Talk, includes numerous opinions, mostly from Tech alumni, on the issue.

A user said, “So moron faculty members want to do this?” Another added “If it’s going to be changed, it should be the students and alumni deciding, not the faculty.”

The topic was also recently posted to the Tech subreddit, with many also disagreeing with the change. An anonymous user posted that “focusing on complete non-issues like this only serves to divide”, and “it’s kind of like crying wolf.”

Another pointed out that the lyrics also explicitly exclude non-engineers at Tech, which make up over half of the student body.

Changing one word to the Tech fight song has continually proven to be a complex issue. Members of the Tech community are able to weigh in on the change, with students getting the chance during the SGA referendum.

Sholl summed up that the best part of this issue was that “although we’re not to where we need to be, we’ve made a lot of progress” towards having women and men equally represented at Tech.