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Tampa students protest homophobic building name, USF President Genshaft hides

By Danya Zituni

USF students after marching to the Patel Center

Tampa, FL – Over 30 students protested to change the name of the C.W. “Bill” Young building at the University of South Florida on April 19. Young was a Florida senator who participated in the Johns Committee from 1962 to 1964. The Johns Committee conducted witch-hunts, initially targeting communists during McCarthy’s red scare. However by the time Young joined the Johns Committee in 1962, it was zeroing in on gay people, driving hundreds of professors and students out of Florida universities and the teaching profession across the state.

The Johns Committee spread terror through interrogations, often using police to pull students and professors out of classes. Panels of politicians and government officials would brow beat and bully the academics, teachers and students. Hundreds of students and faculty were subsequently intimidated, expelled or fired, on suspicion of being LGBTQ or ‘subversives.’

USF administrators named the ROTC building after C.W. “Bill” Young in 2007. As a long-time U.S. congressperson, Young was fanatically pro-war and consistently delivered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex. USF administrators publicly state that Young also directed millions of federal government tax dollars to USF, implying his actions as a member of the Johns Committee should be overlooked.

“Admin doesn’t care that they’ve made a symbol of hate the center of campus, so long as they keep getting their paychecks signed by right-wing homophobic donors,” said Jack Ling of SDS.

“Just as previous administrations allowed the Johns Committee and police to terrorize LGBTQ students and faculty on campus, the current administration continues similar repression. They have not only opposed our pro-LGBTQ demand from the start, but have also actively tried to silence us,” said Tori Stratis of SDS.

A growing number of students are demanding USF administrators #ChangeTheName of the Young building and want a prominent symbol of hate removed from campus. They gathered on the lawn outside the Marshall Student Center to start their rally.

“When I say Bill Young, you say homophobe! Bill Young! Homophobe! Admin! Homophobes!” was the call and response chant led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

The student rally proceeded to march into the Marshall Student Center up to the USF administration offices on the fourth floor. Protesters chanted while hundreds of students watched and took pictures. The students entered President Judy Genshaft and Provost Ralph Wilcoxs’s office lobby and demanded they sign a statement agreeing to #ChangeTheName.

Representatives from the USF administration urged students to leave, but protesters sat in for two hours pressing for a meeting. Students encouraged people across social media to call President Genshaft and Provost Wilcox to meet with the students.

Eventually a student got through to the president’s assistant located in the Patel Center, an isolated building where the formal offices of the president and provost are located. The students marched across campus, expecting to meet with them. The Patel Center receptionist informed the students that the neither President Genshaft or her assistant were present there. Realizing President Genshaft was attempting to hide from them, the students chanted, “Bill Young and admin are the same!” as police repeatedly ordered the students, “Leave now!”

Students again rallied outside the Patel Center and SDS called for a follow-up meeting and action. Sam Beutler of Tampa SDS said, “USF administration has demonstrated its complete unwillingness to listen to and provide for students. They are afraid of the people organizing and working together in order to fight back and win their rights.”

SDS members are united and determined to press their demand until a victory is won. Noah Peretz of Tampa SDS stated, “Admin fears nothing more than confrontation with students. They know they are on the wrong side of history, and can’t stand up to the power of people united.”

#TampaFL #SDS #CWBillYoung