Student group demands CWY name change

The C.W. Bill Young building faces a debate over namesake Bill Young’s participation in Johns Committee. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

The CWY building on campus is known as the headquarters for USF’s ROTC program, but its namesake is known for something very different. 

In a letter to USF President Judy Genshaft, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) demanded the university change the name of the CWY building. The complementary petition launched soon after has already received the support of several associations on campus. 

The building that houses the Joint Military Leadership Center and ROTC programs at USF was inaugurated in November 2007. It was named after former Sen. Charles William Young, who passed away two years ago, following a political career that lasted more than half a century, first as a Republican senator and then as a U.S. congressman for 21 consecutive terms. 

Young is criticized for his involvement with the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, known as the Johns Committee, which published the Purple Pamphlet in 1964, a book meant for informational purposes explaining the dangers of homosexuality, and going as far as calling it “the most insidious crime of all” while defining it as “a sin or a sickness.” 

SDS members denounced the building on their Facebook page as “not only inappropriate, but absolutely reprehensible.” 

“USF should not continue the veneration of this senator, and should give the building a name that has no homophobic, racist or sexist reference,” said Danya Zituni, president of SDS. 

“This petition is part of the anti-war campaign we started last semester to call for the end of that pattern of oppression, violence and imperialism,” said Zituni.

In petitioning USF to rename the CWY building, named after former Sen. Charles William Young who was a member of Florida’s controversial Johns Committee in the 1960s, SDS also asked for the university to end its memorandums of understanding with U.S. Central Command and U.S. Southern Command, which are involved in military operations in the Middle East and Latin America that the student group disagrees with. 

James Schnur, a university librarian at USF St. Petersburg and specialist on the Johns Committee, said “the committee hoped to maintain racial segregation by intimidating civil rights supporters.” 

Later, the committee expanded its purview to include the LGBT community.

However, Schnur said USF was the first university to resist the committee. The university caused serious setbacks in the organization’s work. 

Schnur also said, though Young was a member of the committee, he was “less involved than other members.”

The senator’s wife, Beverly Young, said Young hardly spoke of the committee. 

“It’s probably something he was just appointed to,” she said in an interview with Bay News 9.

She went on to say she did not appreciate her late husband’s name being “dragged through the mud by people who don’t know anything about him.”

Additionally, the university said in a statement “facilities may be named for an individual who has distinguished himself or herself through significant contributions to the university.” 

Despite the almost 400 signatures obtained on the petition, an official statement from the university said there are no plans to change the name.