Florida Atlantic president Mary Jo Saunders has agreed to hold a public meeting to discuss the school's football stadium naming after protesters conducted a two-hour sit-in outside her office on Monday.
The school recently decided to accept a $6 million donation from GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based private prison corporation, in exchange for naming rights to the school's football stadium. The students, faculty, and alumni protesting the agreement have accused the GEO Group of human rights violations at its facilities.
Julie Ebenstein, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida, joined the protesters on Monday.
"By allowing GEO Group to use the university as a prop in a campaign to whitewash their record, FAU is participating in an effort to desensitize Floridians to the horrors within the prisons-for-profit industry," Ebenstein told The Palm Beach Post. "No glowing logo on the side of a stadium can stamp out the shameful record of neglect and mistreatment at GEO Group facilities. FAU's willingness to portray GEO as just another good corporate citizen may ultimately smooth the path for a further expansion of prisons-for-profit in Florida, when evidence shows that handing control of our prisons to private corporations harms our communities and neglects true criminal justice reform."
In addition to Saunders agreeing to hold a public meeting, the school responded with an official statement explaining the financial considerations in the decision.
"Higher education is faced with many fiscal challenges, and philanthropic assistance to universities has become vital to maintaining the programs and services offered to students," the statement read.
This has not been the first public outcry since the announcement of FAU's decision to accept GEO Group's gift. The public meeting will be held on campus Friday, but it is uncertain if the school will change their stance on "Owlcatraz."
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