'Owl-catraz' Revisited: ACLU Defends FAU Students Against Alleged Intimidation

Apr 8, 2013

Credit Christine DiMattei

“Owl-catraz” is no more.

But it seems the controversy over a private prison company’s efforts to buy naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s stadium is far from over.

In a letter to FAU’s Dean of Students, the American Civil Liberties Union criticizes the university for an alleged retaliation against seven students for rallying against the defunct deal. 

The ACLU claims the seven are being targeted for filing campus police reports suggesting that university President Mary Jane Saunders hit a student-protestor with her car during a rally and did not stop to offer assistance.

It’s just the latest in a string of controversies dogging FAU in recent months.

There was the professor who questioned whether the Sandy Hook mass shooting ever took place.  Then the university's decision to sell stadium naming rights to GEO Group, a prison company under scrutiny for human rights violations.  Protesters took to nicknaming the stadium “Owl-catraz,” a play on the name of FAU’s team, the Owls.  And most recently, the classroom exercise that led to the so-called "Jesus stomping" incident.

So can FAU bounce back after all the negative publicity?

Yes, according to Ray Casas, president of Miami-based Wragg & Casas Public Relations.  But the university needs to stop flip-flopping, he said.

“It makes them (FAU officials) look bad and it adds to the controversy,” said Casas, who specializes in crisis counseling and issues management.  “They haven’t been able to grab all these incidents and deal with them and put out their position forcefully.  They haven’t done that yet.”

On FAU’s main campus in Boca Raton, 19-year-old communications major Kalli Krivdo said she hopes the university will be out of the news soon.

“I think it’s just a phase we’re going through,” Krivdo said.  “But FAU’s a great place to be.  A lot of good people.”