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USF students protest campus building named for right-wing bigot

By Gage Lacharite |
November 13, 2015
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University of South Florida (USF) students demand name change for campus buildi
University of South Florida (USF) students demand name change for campus building named for bigot. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Tampa, FL - A group of 20 University of South Florida (USF) students rallied at Cooper Hall, Nov. 12, to demand the name change of the C. W. Bill Young building. Students are upset that USF administrators named the building after a Republican politician who worked to ruin the careers of college professors and schoolteachers.

Bill Young was a Florida State Senator who participated in the Johns Committee in the early 1960s. The Johns Committee, set up in 1956, was a Florida version of McCarthy’s Red Scare combined with an anti-gay Lavender Scare. The Johns Committee was dedicated to kicking out communists, gays and lesbians, civil rights activists and other progressives from the Florida public university system. The right-wing politicians ruined the lives of scores of faculty, students and staff at Florida universities. In 1959, after being 'interrogated' by the Johns Committee for 'homosexuality' and then being forced to resign from his job as chair of the Geography Department, one married University of Florida professor attempted suicide.

Outside the building at the USF campus, students coming from classes showed their support for the protest by signing the petition to change the C. W. Bill Young name. Some students stopped to listen to speakers, while others joined the protest, chanting, “Change the name! Stop the hate!”

“History bends towards justice. History bends towards progress. The present however, is shaped by those forces which are willing to stand up openly and outspokenly, against oppression and injustice. No matter the cost. No matter how unpopular. So where the university will not do so, we as SDS, along with the support of many student groups and faculty will. This is why we are demanding that the University of South Florida change the name of the CWY building,” said student Jared Austin, as other students held signs reading, “Change the name.”

So far USF administrators are denying the students' demands, claiming that Bill Young’s political backing and financial contributions to the university outweigh his historic participation in political and social persecution.

Students for a Democratic Society member Jack Ling said, “This sentiment expressed by the administration is an absolute moral atrocity and cannot be allowed to stand.” Adding, “If we organize, agitate and mobilize, we the students can take control of our education and force administration to concede to us!”

The movement to change the name on the campus of USF is picking up traction, with more students and faculty showing interest in the campaign. Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine and Bulls for Bernie all spoke at the rally and are gathering petition signatures.