Just hours after the latest student protest, Boca-Raton based GEO Group withdrew its planned $6 million gift to Florida Atlantic University, a gift that would have put its name on the school's football stadium, reports the Miami Herald. Controversy had dogged the gift from the beginning, as GEO Group's status as the second-largest private prison operator in the country prompted jokes nicknaming the stadium Owlcatraz, after FAU's mascot. More serious criticism came from human-rights organizations on the company's reputation for housing prisoners in unhealthy, abusive squalor.
A few days ago, university leaders had insisted the naming would go forward. The institutions board of trustees chairman said he'd seen no evidence of wrongdoing by the firm. Yesterday, a coalition of more than 60 civil rights, immigrant, student, and faith organizations delivered an opposition letter to university President Mary Jane Saunders and the university's board of trustees. Student protesters then began their latest march in front of the stadium. Last night, GEO Group Chairman and CEO George Zoley said, “What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO's goodwill to financially assist the university's athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations.”