Broward News

FAU Students Still Fighting GEO Naming Rights Deal Say FAU Trustees Barring Them From Meeting (UPDATED)

FAU students opposed to the school's sale of football field naming rights to global private prison operator/serial human rights abuser GEO Group spent spring break last week planning their next moves.

One thing the students had in mind was attendance at today's meeting of FAU's board of trustees, the body that cut the $6 million deal with the company. But school officials have, without explanation, barred them from the meeting, according to the students.

See also:
-FAU Students, Faculty and Allies Vow to Keep Fighting

Typically, the board's monthly meetings are held -- ironically, or appropriately, considering the notoriety the board brought down on itself with the naming rights decision -- in the school's recruiting room, in the very bowels of the stadium. (The room was also the site of a sham "open forum" with FAU President Mary Jane Saunders just prior to spring break, a lame effort to quell the protestors.)

Today's board meeting, however, is at the FAU campus most distant from the stadium, a one-and-a-half-hour drive north in Fort Pierce, at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, where the school offers marine-related programs.

A representative of the protesters' Stop Owlcatraz! coalition told New Times ;that several of their members have met with trustees in the board members' offices recently, trying to win them over, and planned to gather at the Fort Pierce campus today when the board is scheduled to meet. When the Harbor Branch campus was contacted, however, the coalition was told (according to the representative) that "there is no way we can meet there tomorrow... It is not an open campus, and no one will get through the gate."

The Harbor Branch campus includes a restricted area along the north shore of its port, but the trustees' meeting is scheduled to be held in the campus' Marine Education Building, outside the restricted area.

The FAU trustees' website states that "The Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees announces meetings to which all persons are invited." The site also advertises request for public comment, ADA access, and a call-in number for audio: 888-207-9997 Password: FAU Owls.

School officials told New Times it was in January that the trustees selected Harbor Branch as the location for today's meeting. They failed to respond to further requests for information.

The Stop Owlcatraz! coalition still aims to get as close as possible to the trustees' meeting, rallying outside the gates of the Harbor Branch campus at 10 a.m. Later, at 5:30 p.m. on the Boca campus, they're holding a "Board of Students" meeting "to strategize our next big moves and get people engaged who are newer to the movement."

UPDATE: At 9:49 a.m., as the meeting was about to start, we received an email from FAU's office of media relations stating that "students, members of the media and/or public will not be turned away at the HBOI gate if they would like to attend the BOT meeting."

Our coverage to continue...

UPDATE 2: In a 9 p.m. email, a coalition representative wrote: 

Today went rather well. I went with two other students and we were met by community members affiliated with Move On. We were surprised when we were escorted through the front gate by police! Students were allowed to attend the Board meeting and make comments during the public comment section on the agenda. This included one call-in. Meanwhile, the Move On members protested outside with a large banner and various signs.

Many Board members publicly expressed their allegiance with the deal (no surprise). We may have spoken to deaf ears for the most part, but our presence alone was a triumph! 

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