Georgia Tech deans claim the word ‘cheer’ is sexist

The deans of all six colleges at Georgia Tech are sponsoring a petition to change one word in the school’s fight song that they feel devalues the accomplishments of female students.

The petition, which is posted on the school’s website, asserts that females have made “great strides” on campus since the lyrics to “Ramblin’ Wreck” were written in 1908, but contends that one line in the song fails to recognize that accomplishment.

“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,” reads the lyric in question.

“The Ramblin’ Wreck lyrics first appeared in print in 1908, at a time when women were not allowed to vote and could not attend Georgia Tech as students,” the deans claim. “These lyrics do not reflect the significant achievements of women at Georgia Tech, who make up a growing fraction of students and faculty alike.”

In place of the word “cheer,” the petition suggests “join” as an acceptable substitute, explaining that “it is important to modernize the language that describes women’s roles in the Georgia Tech community.”

The “Join the Brave and Bold” petition had received 1,670 signatures from members of the Georgia Tech community as of Friday morning, nonetheless leaving it significantly short of the 2,533 signatures collected by a counter-petition, which the authors of the original petition saw fit to mention on their own site.

Several signatories to the counter-petition point out in the comments section that the lyrics being targeted for revision clearly refer to cheering for the football team, an activity that is not just open to, but indeed embraced by, people of both genders.

“Women can't join the Tech football team anyways,” commenter Sarah Hughes writes. “And if you think THAT's sexist, then I have some bad news for you about how offended by everything you're going to be for the rest of your life.”

The disparity in support between the competing petitions is also reflected in an informal poll of students conducted by the Student Government Association, the results of which were posted on Facebook Tuesday evening.

Based on nearly 13,000 responses, the SGA poll found overwhelming support for keeping the fight song as it is, with less than 29 percent of respondents saying they support changing the lyrics.

The poll also revealed that support for the existing fight song was strong among virtually every demographic of the undergraduate student body, including female students, as well as among alumni and staff. Faculty members, on the other hand, were more-or-less evenly divided on the question, while graduate students comprised the only group with majority support for changing the fight song.

Perhaps in recognition of the lopsided influence of the measure’s opponents, WSBTV reports that Georgia Tech has issued a statement reassuring students and alumni that the school does not intend to change the fight song.

“Georgia Tech’s famous fight song, 'Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech,' has been a Georgia Tech tradition for more than a century,” the statement begins, noting that the tune is based on an old English and Scottish drinking song, effectively making it a historical document.

“Through the years, various components of the song have been called into question, including the reference to alcohol and use of the word ‘hell’,” the school acknowledges, but concludes by declaring that “There are no plans to change the fight song at this time.”

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