Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

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Dear Editor,

I wanted to share a message that I sent to Dr. Saunders regarding the naming rights agreement with GEO Group for the football stadium.

Thanks for your consideration:

Dear Dr. Saunders,

As a student in the FAU MBA Sport Management program from January 2010 to August 2011, I eagerly followed the progress of the new football stadium project and greatly appreciated the support you personally displayed for the university’s athletic department. As a former sports marketing professional and someone with (limited) insight into the FAU athletic department’s finances, I understand how attractive the naming rights deal recently secured with GEO Group must be.

However, I am writing you today as a deeply concerned alumnus. I believe that moving forward with this deal would be disastrous from both ethical and public relations perspectives. GEO Group’s shameful record of human rights violations, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect has received considerable media attention in recent days. The company’s response, repeatedly censoring factually accurate and properly cited information from its own Wikipedia page, reveals a troubling lack of transparency. While the revenue on the table is considerable, partnering with an organization that conceals evidence of its own unethical conduct would directly contradict the ideals of the university. It would also be bad business. Each new allegation against GEO Group (and, if recent years are any indication, there will be many) will reflect directly upon the university. Partnership with the GEO Group offers no synergy for potential sponsors in the industries that traditionally support athletic departments, and many firms will be unwilling to see their brands associated with the prison-industrial complex, particularly at a time when the nation’s swelling prison population has become a source of great concern and controversy. I doubt I am the only alumnus who would think twice before giving back to a university that keeps such questionable bedfellows.

My academic experience at FAU was very rewarding, and positioned me for admission to a excellent doctoral program. The construction of the new football stadium during that time was a powerful symbol of FAU’s growth and transition from commuter school to reputable university, and has also become an important part of your legacy as president. The GEO Group deal would irrevocably tarnish that symbol, forever branding the stadium as “Owlcatraz.” Taking the money at the expense of the school’s ideals and integrity as an academic institution would be a huge step in the wrong direction, and would undermine FAU’s credibility on a national scale.

I urge you to reconsider this decision.

Very respectfully,
Jonathan Keeney
MBA Class of ’11