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Florida Atlantic University Students Protest GEO Group Name Attached To Stadium

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FAU PROTEST GEO GROUP
A group of students "occupied" the president's office at Florida Atlantic University to protest the school's agreement to name its stadium after GEO Group, Inc., the operator of controversial for-profit prisons. (Image via @upressonline) | Twitter: upressonline

Dozens of students gathered on campus at Florida Atlantic University on Monday to protest the school's recent announcement that it will name its football stadium after GEO Group, Inc., a company that operates private corrections facilities at the center of lawsuits and federal investigations.

The public university announced last week that it had struck a deal to name its football stadium after GEO Group, Inc., one of the largest operators of for-profit prisons in the U.S. and a major donor to the Florida Republican Party. In exchange, FAU will receive $6 million from the company over 12 years.

Students called attention to a record of alleged constitutional violations at the company's facilities, saying they don't want the FAU Owls to play on a field named GEO Group Stadium.

FAU president Mary Jane Saunders agreed to hold a campus meeting Friday to discuss the stadium arrangement, the Palm Beach Post reports. The announcement came after about 40 students calling themselves the Stop Owlcatraz Coalition "occupied" her office, while around 100 more gathered at another location on campus, according to the Post.

Saunders told local and national media last week that GEO Group is "a wonderful company and we're very, very proud to be partnered with them.”

"The board of trustees should have done due diligence on GEO before they signed that agreement," Gonzalo Vizcardo, a student protest leader, told the Palm Beach Post. "What [Saunders] said about GEO being 'a wonderful company' was outrageous."

One of the GEO Group's facilities, an immigration detention center known as the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Fla., has been the subject of scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses.

At the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, another GEO Group property in Mississippi, a report issued by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice found that the institution was "deliberately indifferent to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth. The sexual misconduct we found was among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation."

GEO Group CEO George Zoley is an alumnus of FAU and is the former chair of FAU's board of trustees.

"The GEO Group Foundation contributes more than $1 million annually to scholarships, local charities, public schools and other worthy causes, illustrating the company's commitment to education and rehabilitation," FAU spokeswoman Jennifer O'Flannery Anderson said in a statement to WPBF.

An online petition urging FAU to scrap the deal has already garnered nearly 10,000 signatures.

Students pressed Saunders on whether she'd be willing to break the agreement with GEO, to which she responded they could discuss that at Friday's meeting.

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