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Help stop FAU's association with Geo Group

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An Open Letter of Dissent to FAU’s Acceptance of the $6 Million Gift from the GEO Group Foundation

To President Saunders and relevant Administrators and parties in Athletics,

We are stunned both by the Administration’s decision to form an association with GEO Group and by the process’s lack of transparency and consultation with the wider university community. On 19 February 2013 the University’s Communications sent an email announcing this decision. It is unfortunate that many of us already had been introduced to the association with GEO Group by media sources that criticized and mocked the university. Regardless of Mr. Zoley’s past association with FAU, the collaboration between the FAU administration and GEO Group counters the mission of our university. This includes a commitment to “the most racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse institution in the Florida State System” and “towards building a two-way street between the campus and the community.”

For the many of us who define our scholarship in advocacy for social justice and equality, it is hard not to feel indignant and embarrassed by the institution to which we have dedicated time and energy far beyond what is required of us in service, research, and teaching. It is evident that the Administration did not consider the fruitful insight of the social sciences, the humanities, and related fields. Last year FAU made Contemporary Societal Challenges one of its three signature themes. Undeniably, this theme includes the racial inequalities inherent in US incarceration and the overrepresentation of minorities in US prisons. In 2012 FAU was nationally ranked by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as one of the top four-year colleges conferring bachelor’s degrees to minorities. The substantial and substantiated abuses of the private for-profit prison industry, and GEO Group as one of the worst violators of civil liberties and human rights in this industry, implies the university’s stated commitments to be farcical.

Several weeks ago President Saunders appeared on mainstream media countering the association of FAU with a neglectful and callous response to violence. It seems rather hypocritical that we are now poised to make an association with one of the most violent industries in the US. We are once again in the spotlight of negative media attention. This contradiction is apparent to some, but those of us in academic fields trained to gather empirical evidence, identify the nuances of social formations, and build accurate conceptualizations are astutely aware of the disservice FAU does to US public higher education and our academic advancement by associating with GEO Group.

As members of an institution of higher education, our moral compass binds us. FAU’s acceptance of any amount of funds by an organization such as GEO Group counters our objective of knowledge for the benefit of society. We demand that the administration immediately retract its connection with GEO Group and recognize that the selection unfortunately overlooked the interest of its faculty, students, and staff, imperiled the future of FAU’s enrollment, and diminished our opportunities for grants or to host events and conferences. Accepting a “gift” from GEO Group disregards the diverse and migrant communities that attend our colleges, fund our programs, and participate in our activities.

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