GEO Group Withdraws $6 Million Gift for Florida Atlantic University

Prison company's gift to rename stadium withdrawn amid student outrage, was 'ongoing distraction,' company said

The Boca Raton prison company that donated $6 million to Florida Atlantic University to change the name of the college's football stadium has withdrawn the gift, the company said Monday.

GEO Group announced that they informed FAU that the gift would be withdrawn and the stadium would no longer be named GEO Group Stadium, calling criticism against the move an "ongoing distraction."

"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," GEO Group Chairman and CEO George Zoley said in a statement. "We employ many FAU graduates and Boca Raton community members. We take pride in running a well-respected company and are proud of our long-term support of the University."

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Shortly after the $6 million gift was announced in February, students and activists expressed outrage, saying some facilities operated by the group have come under fire for human rights violations.

"The deal was being called Owlcatraz, it's a combinations between the owls the FAU mascot and Alcatraz, the famous prison off of the bay area," student Gonzalo Vizcardo said.

FAU's Faculty Senate opposed the name change and the student government was expected to also vote on a similar resolution later this week.

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The gift would have been a 12-year commitment with annual payments of $500,000.

"FAU alumnus and Trustee Emeritus George Zoley and his colleagues have been loyal supporters of this University," FAU President Mary Jane Saunders said in the same statement. "We are thankful for all of the companies, organizations and individuals who give to this university to support our mission, our pursuit of academic excellence and valuable contributions to this community."

"He was very surprised that something that was given with such good intent was sort of taken as a disruptive influence to both his company and the university," said Saunders.

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