1. They are watching.
At 6:15 a.m., eight University of Texas students walked out to the Mezes Courtyard.
It was cold, and the sun had not yet risen. Details were hard to make out in the pre-dawn darkness. But all eight students were still able to see the 20 figures draped in long, dark robes looking down at them from the balcony high above the courtyard; their faces covered with masks.
John Warder was a UT Senior and in 2013 served as director of Camp Texas, the Texas Exes’ student-led summer camp for UT freshmen and transfer students. He was one of the eight students who walked out in front of Mezes that day to be awarded the Campus Traditions Award from “The Eyes of Texas”—UT’s secret society, founded in 1975.
Warder and his executive team received the Campus Traditions Award from the Eyes of Texas secret society. ©Kelsey Roberts
The eight students were asked to light candles while a member of the Eyes of Texas—masked and wearing burnt orange robes—read aloud the text of the award.
“They asked us to light a candle, and I could barely light my candle because my hands were shaking,” said Warder. “It was really cool and intimate.”
Warder received an e-mail a few days prior to the award ceremony saying, “We have been watching. And we are impressed with the work you have done to bring the Camp Texas experience to so many incoming freshmen each year.”
“We have been watching…”
The mysterious e-mail instructed Warder and his executive team with the time and place to meet to receive their award.
The e-mail continued by saying, “Our student members remain anonymous so that their leadership and achievements are reflected in the excellence of UT.”
2. You Might Be Next
The Camp Texas executive team’s story of being tracked by the Eyes of Texas is one of the most well-documented, but it is far from the only occurrence. You have legitimate reason to suspect that YOU (or your organization’s executive board) might be next:
- The Tejas Club also received the same Campus Traditions award from the Eyes of Texas for their Tejas Coffee event series which featured speakers like football team defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, and UT Professor of Innovation Bob Metcalfe.
- Texas Alpha Phi Omega (APO), UT’s biggest service fraternity, was recently honored with the 2014 Campus Traditions Award for their “selfless contributions and school spirit.”
- LonghornRun was also a recipient of the 2014 Campus Traditions Award for their “efforts to make UT a more active and vibrant place.”
Tejas Club received the Campus Traditions Award. Is Hook ’em in on it all? I suspect so…
But the Campus Traditions Award is not the only award presented by the Eyes of Texas. There is an additional award, called the “Excellence Award”, which is offered to students “for excellence in service to The University of Texas at Austin.” Here are the recipients from 2014:
- Jennifer Zamora, who serves as the Director of Student Programs, received the 2014 Excellence Award.
- Kelsey Roberts, who serves as the Student Relations Coordinator for the Texas Exes, was also a 2014 Excellence Award recipient for “making the UT student body more engaged and connected.”
- Dr. Aileen Bumphus received the 2014 Excellence Award for her success in helping lead the Gateway Scholars program to success.
- Drew Carls, the University of Texas’ Digital Content Coordinator, was awarded the 2014 Excellence Award for “(his) attention to detail and dedication uphold(ing) UT Austin’s stellar reputation.”
- Tony Marinello, the Assistant Director of the UT Longhorn Band, was the fifth and final winner of the 2014 Excellence Award for “(his) passion, energy, and innovation helping make the Longhorn Band and UT Austin great!”
The next time you find yourself doing copious amounts of community service, or doing something to benefit hundreds of fellow Longhorns—you might soon find yourself face-to-face with a member of “The Eyes of Texas”: draped in a burnt orange cloak, wearing a mask, and ready to give you an award for your service to the University.
3. They have (allegedly) corrupted Student Government elections.
In a 2012 op-ed piece to the Daily Texan, College Republicans President Saul Mendoza drew attention to the Student Government elections, and the possible role played by The Eyes of Texas secret society.
Mendoza wrote about the frustration felt by certain UT students regarding the way Student Government has been run, and the “revolutions” that have taken place in response to “the lack of opposition to status quo candidates supported by the Eyes of Texas, UT’s secret society.”
Mendoza wrote about Lance Kennedy and Geoffrey Geiger, members of the College Republicans, who formed “The Texas Revolution” in 2008. The Texas Revolution was designed to serve as an alternative to Student Government.
Geiger and Kennedy asserted that SG elections had been so corrupted by The Eyes of Texas —and their “status quo candidates”—that SG is no longer a democracy. The Texas Revolution intended to give students an alternative option to the status quo.
In 2012, a new reform movement was formed against Student Government and The Eyes of Texas.
“Abolish SG” sent out a petition asking students to sign their names in support of exactly what the name of the movement would imply: the abolishment of the UT Student Government.
Abolish SG claimed to have a roster of the Eyes of Texas members, and threatened to expose them if their demands were not met.
Mendoza referred to the “Abolish SG” movement as a “temper tantrum designed to reinstate the candidates who were disqualified.” (This was back in the days of Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara getting disqualified, and the eventual SG Presidency of Thor Lund—whose tenure was…em, controversial.)
It is unclear whether The Eyes of Texas are actually involved with Student Government elections or not. But the name of the “Eyes of Texas” organization litters the pages of opinion editorials. Make of that what you will.
Don’t ever forget that “The Eyes of Texas” are always watching you. We may not know their motives or their members, but at least now we know they exist.
Happy hunting, friends!