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A primer on past protests

Protests, demonstrations and rallies are a common sight on any campus – yet not every college’s history is as rich as USF’s.

Over the years, students and visitors have railed against everything from substandard cafeteria food to former Cuban revolutionaries.

Even this year, the University has hosted high-profile protests on campus, such as a counter-protest in April against picketing Westboro Baptist Church members.

As the year nears its end, however, students may want to reflect on previous protests. The Oracle looks through its past headlines to uncover some of the past five decades’ student and on-campus protests.


Many of the University’s student protests in the late 1960s were small and centered on the Vietnam War.

For instance, about 30 students demonstrated against the war in October 1967 by waving signs and popping balloons with peaceful messages – with tensions rising after a security officer tore up an anti-war sign.

As the decade developed, however, protests centered around different grievances. In April 1969, the Organization for the Involvement of the Neglected Community (OINK) and other students protested the quality of on-campus dining by feeding pigs cafeteria food – then providing the fattened pigs to hungry Tampa families.

The following week, black students in an Afro American Arts and Letters class participated in a walkout to protest the lack of a black studies department.

1970s and 1980s

It wasn’t until Oct. 31, 1970, at a Celebration for Life peace rally that actual Armed Forces would stop a USF student protest.

The event initially attracted about 3,000 attendees with rock music and a candlelight walk featuring anti-war speeches. But when some remained on the football practice fields past 1 a.m., police in riot gear descended on and arrested 53 people for trespassing.

Students used to the USF Library’s “24-5” hours might be surprised to hear a sit-in was once held because the building closed too early.

Yet, in February 1976, a group called Students Against Cutbacks fought university budget cuts that kept the Library closed at 10 p.m. by refusing to leave the lobby until 3 a.m., resulting in six students’ suspensions.

The 1980s brought less campus protests, but anti-draft rallies saw a brief resurgence in 1980 when then-President Jimmy Carter pushed for Selective Service registration.


The years 1990 and 1991 both hosted a wide array of campus demonstrations – ranging from waving anti-Gulf War signs to marching in opposition of racial graffiti on campus.

Protesting took a violent turn on Nov. 31, 1994, however, when former Cuban revolutionary Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo spoke at the USF Library about starting a peaceful dialogue with Fidel Castro.

Menoyo’s speech was met with more than 300 angry demonstrators outside the Library with “Cuba Si, Castro No” signs and stones to toss. Two protesters were even detained by University Police.

A Nov. 5, 1999, protest tackled the topic of art, as more than 200 students gathered in the president’s office to question the reassignment of art teaching assistant Derek Washington.

Washington showed a photograph of himself having sex with a woman in an Introduction to Art class – which a student’s parent claimed constituted sexual harassment. He was reinstated four days after the protest.


When then-president George W. Bush visited the Sun Dome to rally for his brother on Nov. 2, 2002, more than a hundred protesters flocked to Alumni Drive.

Seven demonstrators were arrested for trespassing beyond the University’s designated protest zones, including one USF student and one USF librarian.

Another controversial conservative – “Godless: The Church of Liberalism” author Ann Coulter – spurned a silent walkout by more than 100 red shirt-donning students during an Oct. 19, 2006, speech at the Sun Dome.

SG leaders and about 70 students even hosted a modern sit-in Oct. 16, 2007, protesting Student Affairs Vice President Jennifer Meningall and other officials’ handling of student funds. The demonstration earned coverage from Channel 10 News and the Tampa Tribune.