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Students vote on referendum to change name of Reitz Union

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University of Florida students continue to vote on a referendum suggesting a change in the name of the J. Reitz Student Union in the student government elections Wednesday, the last day to vote in the fall election.

Voting, which also includes elections for student senate, started Monday and will run through 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the UF Student Government website.

Though the Reitz Union building expansion will not be completed until 2015, a name change could happen in the near future.

Students are voting to either keep the current name, after the fifth president of UF, or change it to honor Vigil Hawkins, an African American whose legal battle ended segregation at UF.

John Parady, senior at UF majoring in finance, said, “The students had named the union after [Reitz] because he was such a transformational leader during an incredible time in our history – during the Civil Rights Movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the height of the Cold War. Yet, he was still able to produce and develop over 300 buildings on our university’s campus and work actively with the students.”

The issue surrounding Reitz’s reputation is due to his involvement with the Johns Committee, which dismissed homosexuals from UF in the late 1950s.

“Hawkins’ name, on the other hand, stands for equality, in my mind,” said second-year journalism Ph.D. student Dan Axelrod.

Axelrod said Reitz supported the actions of a Florida legislative committee that was hateful, while Hawkins led the University of Florida to integrate its law school.

Heather Garvison, a student at UF, said the Reitz Union is a place of gathering that all UF students can recognize rather than a political statement.

“To everyone it’s the Reitz and I don’t feel like the name change really has an effect,” she said. “It really shouldn’t be changed because it’s the building we think of when we think of the Reitz, not the person and things that he did.”

Results will be announced Wednesday night. While the collective student opinion is informative, the ultimate decision is up to the Board of Trustees, according to The Gainesville Sun.

About Kelsey Meany

Kelsey is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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