Tags: fau | football | stadium | prison

Prison Firm Withdraws Gift to Name University Football Stadium

Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013 01:47 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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An army of student protesters has prompted Florida Atlantic University to drop plans to name the school’s football stadium after a controversial operator of prisons.

It’s the second major dustup to rock the university of 30,000 in a week, following the fury over a teacher assigning students to write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper and stomp on it.

The GEO Group — the nation’s second-largest private prison operator — had planned to donate $6 million to the school and see its name put on the university stadium, according to The Miami Herald.

But 60 civil rights, immigrant, student, and faith organizations strongly opposed the plan, alleging that GEO had a reputation for housing prisoners in “unhealthy, abusive squalor,’’ the Herald reported.

Initially, the school administration refused to bow to protesters, prompting students to joke that the stadium should be called “Owlcatraz,’’ a name reflecting the school’s bird mascot and California’s once-notorious island prison.

But on Monday, the university and GEO announced the plan was dead and the $6 million gift was being withdrawn.

In a statement, GEO Chairman 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.”

The university is still reeling over a classroom incident in which a communications professor required students to stomp on a piece of paper with the word “Jesus’’ written on it and then talk about their feelings.

Ryan Rotela, a junior at the school’s Davie campus and devout Mormon, complained about the assignment, immediately sparking outrage among Christian groups.

On Monday, instructor Deandre Poole broke his silence, telling the website Inside Higher Ed that he is a Christian himself and didn’t force anyone to stomp on the name of Jesus.

“I am very religious. I see how the name Jesus is symbolic. For people like myself, Jesus is my lord and savior,’’ he said.

Poole said that after the class in question, one outraged student “wanted to hit me.”

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