Tag Archives: owlcatraz

Breakdown of FAU’s latest damage-control e-mail

25 Feb
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Photo from Dream Activist

On February 25, an e-mail was sent out through FAU’s announcement service with the subject “A Message from the Division of Community Engagement and Department of Athletics”. Here’s a breakdown of the message, with my commentary

To the Florida Atlantic University Community,

FAU marked another significant milestone in its history on Tuesday, Feb. 19, as we announced that our football stadium will be named GEO Group Stadium in recognition of a $6 million philanthropic gift to the University. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve the gift and the new stadium name.

Whether or not the gift would be called philanthropic or whitewashing is nitpicking. It is, however, interesting to note that the BOT passed the name unanimously. This means that Robert Huffman, the current Student Body President, voted to approve it. Considering that every student I’ve talked to has had a negative reaction to the stadium naming, his vote is wildly out of touch.

The GEO Group is a well-respected Boca Raton-based company that employs 18,000 worldwide and more than 2,000 in South Florida, including two former FAU student body presidents.

I’m not sure who would call the GEO Group “well-respected”. Several of their facilities are notorious for their abuses of prisoners. Furthermore, one of the two former student body presidents who works for GEO Group was recently caught removing the “Controversies” section of GEO’s Wikipedia page. Not exactly a point of pride…

The GEO Group’s CEO and Chairman George Zoley, Ph.D., is a two-time alumnus, former member and chair of FAU’s Board of Trustees, as well as a former member of the FAU Foundation Board. The GEO Group has supported FAU’s events, scholarships, academic programs and the intercollegiate athletic program for more than a decade, and was an inaugural suite holder upon the opening of the stadium in 2011.

A company reserving a suite at a football stadium generally isn’t seen as an act of philanthropy…

Discussions between FAU and The GEO Group regarding a major gift to the University have been ongoing for several years. These dialogues increased throughout 2012 and culminated in last week’s announcement. FAU is grateful for this gift and the commitment of The GEO Group to the community it serves. The gift will be used to support FAU athletics, the stadium, scholarships and academic priorities. FAU and The GEO Group Foundation also will continue to work together to create solid learning opportunities for our students, specifically in the areas of criminal justice, social work and nursing.

If discussions have been going on for years, why is this the first time we’re hearing about it? It’s either a lack of foresight by FAU’s administration – or a very underhanded move – to accept the stadium naming from such a controversial company without testing the waters of public opinion first. Furthermore, it’s quite a stretch to say that GEO Group serves a community when they spend vast sums of money lobbying politicians to push for cheaper prisons and harsher sentencing. Furthermore, it takes serious cajones for a company to say it will push for learning opportunities in nursing when at least two people have died in their facilities as a result of being denied care.

Thanks to the efforts of so many faculty and staff, FAU has worked diligently to ensure increased private funding and The GEO Group embraces the mission of this University. In addition, 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.

Emphasis mine. Private prisons, like those owned by GEO Group have a higher rate of recidivism (pdf warning) than state prisons. Rehabilitation… not so much…

We are grateful for this gift, proud to be Owls and hope to see everyone at our first home football game as members of Conference USA on Saturday, Sept. 21.

We – the students – are not grateful for our stadium being named after a company with as poor a reputation as the GEO Group. FAU isn’t in the news often, but our stadium’s naming has been lambasted as publicly as The Colbert Report. When I go to interview for a job, I don’t want my interviewer’s only prior exposure to my alma mater to be that our stadium is named after an infamous prison company. And with the national ire that this naming has brought, there will be no hiding that.

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