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Activists determined to have Bill Young’s name removed from USF building

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Members from the Tampa Bay chapter of Students for a Democratic Society aren’t backing down from their call that USF President Judy Genshaft change the name of C.W. Bill Young Hall.

Activists want the late Pinellas County congressman’s name removed from the building that houses the USF ROTC program over Young’s involvement with the Johns Committee in the early 1960s.

The group worked to identify gay students and faculty on the USF campus and other public universities in Florida. In 1964 it published the “Purple Pamphlet,” a book that explained the dangers of homosexuality, calling it “the most insidious crime of all” while defining it as “a sin or a sickness.”

USF officials had already said that they have no intention of changing the name, but Provost Ralph Wilcox did meet with members of the USF Chapter for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on Wednesday. Wilcox repeated that the university has no intention of changing the name of the ROTC building that was named for Young in 2007.

“That’s not going to stop our campaign,” says SDS member Matt Schott, a senior majoring in history on the North Tampa campus.

Schott calls university officials “ahistorical,” saying they want to divorce the actions of the past from today.

“They want to focus on the positive contributions of C.W Bill Young instead of taking a holistic and complete approach regarding all his actions,” Schott says, such as all the federal money that he helped bring to the university.

Scott says that while Young may have done both positive and negative things during his life, he and his cohorts consider this involvement with the Johns Committee to be “so reprehensible, that it’s enough for us.”

The petition on the website Change.org, calling for Young’s name to be removed from the building says, “For a  university that serves innumerable LGBTQ students, staff and faculty, the name of this building is not only inappropriate, it’s reprehensible.”

Young’s widow Beverly told Bay News 9 last week that, “That was back in the early 1960s. I never once heard him talk about that committee. It’s probably something he was just appointed to. It is hurtful to see his name being dragged through the mud by people who don’t know anything about him.”

Schott said of his group’s efforts, “We have no intention on slowing down, and we’re going to continue to collect signatures on our petition.” He added that the group will also organize protests on campus about the issue.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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