GEO Group’s $6 million donation Garners Statewide Protests


The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a public records request with the Florida Atlantic University, March 11, seeking all documents associated with the $6 million donation from GEO Group, Inc., America's second largest prison operators. 

A Boca-based corporation, GEO Group, Inc., has been previously accused of human rights violations, abuse and neglect at the private prisons and immigration detention centers it operates worldwide.

The university is supposed to name its football stadium after the corporation in return for the donation , which will be paid over a period of 12 years.The donation has led to Facebook campaigns and protests by around 250 students, urging Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Board of Trustees not to change the name of its on-campus football stadium to GEO Group Stadium.

Dyana Hagen, a student studying social work, told WPTV that the university cannot name its football stadium after a company that is accused of mistreatment and the students collectively need to protect the legitimacy of its institution.

However, the university President Mary Jane Saunders and former football head coach and university ambassador, Howard Schnellenberger, were delighted by the $6 million deal.

 "This gift is a true representation of The GEO Group's incredible generosity to FAU and the community it serves," Saunders told NPR.

GEO's chairman, George Zoley, has a personal connection with the university as he earned his two degrees from the institution and has served as chairman of the board of trustees.

William Drennan, an associate law professor at Southern Illinois University, told the newspaper that this type of advertising by a company is called the halo effect that features a company's name and its brand associated with a prestigious university.

Students' protestors detested that their Owls football team would soon be playing in GEO Stadium and as a result, they dubbed the new stadium, 'Owlcatraz.'

The home of the Owl football team showcases 29,419-seat open-air stadium that includes 6,000 premium seats, 24 suites, 26 loge boxes, 1,000 premier club seats and 4,000 priority club seats and the latest, state-of-the-art amenities.

The stadium was officially opened in October 2011, and is the only college football stadium in the country with a spectacular view of the ocean.

Katrina McCormack, assistant athletic director of media relations, told the University Press that $6 million will be utilised to repay the $70 million debt that was incurred in building the stadium.

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