GAINESVILLE – Last month’s University of Florida (UF) Student Senate meeting included a coalition of students who called for a referendum supporting a name change for the school’s J. Wayne Reitz Student Union. The name commemorates John Wayne Reitz, who served as President of UF from 1955 to 1967. Reitz gained notoriety for his administration’s purges of gay and politically liberal employees and students, and for his resistance to racial integration and admission of African-American students.
In the early 1960s, the Florida Legislative Investigating Committee, led by a state senator (and former Florida governor), Charley Johns, accused twenty-two UF employees and several students of homosexual conduct. All were summarily discharged or expelled under Reitz’s authority.
“The Reitz family is still donating huge amounts of money to the university, so they are pressuring student government to block the name change referendum,” said Nailah Summers, a member of the Gainesville Dream Defenders. “The student government doesn’t care about justice, racism, or the time that Reitz said that ‘homosexuals are an aberration,’” she added.