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.
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.
"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."
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."
"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.