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Florida Atlantic U. Students Stage Sit-In to Protest ‘Owlcatraz’ Stadium Deal

Students occupied the reception area of the Florida Atlantic University president’s office on Monday in hopes of persuading officials to reverse a deal to name the institution’s football stadium for a company that operates prisons. The university announced last week that the facility, home of the Florida Atlantic Owls, would be known as GEO Group Stadium in exchange for $6-million to be paid over 12 years.

Gonzalo Vizcardo, a student and spokesman for a group calling itself the Stop Owlcatraz Coalition, said the students and other protesters had rallied on the campus Monday morning, then marched to the office of President Mary Jane Saunders to demand that she speak to the group about the naming deal. He said Ms. Saunders did not come out of her office, so about 50 protesters staged a sit-in.

After about two hours, he said, “she came out and offered to meet with us on Friday at noon for an hour to discuss the stadium-name deal.” A Florida Atlantic spokeswoman was unable to immediately confirm that claim, but The Palm Beach Post reported on Monday that Ms. Saunders had agreed to a meeting.

The university announced the stadium deal last week in a statement, noting that the chief executive officer of GEO Group, George Zoley, is an alumnus of the university and former chair of its Board of Trustees. “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,” the statement said.

In 2011 National Public Radio reported that GEO Group—formerly the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation—was being investigated by the Department of Justice, and that a civil-rights lawsuit had asserted that juvenile inmates were being held in “barbaric and unconstitutional conditions.”

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