Pablo Paez, a former FAU Student Body President now representing the GEO Group, spoke to the Boca House of Representatives today after Boca House Speaker Jaclyn Broudy invited him. GEO is the private prison company that recently donated $6 million to FAU to rename its football stadium. Paez is the company’s vice president of corporate relations.
“Last week, we had one of the members of the Faculty Senate come and speak to us,” Broudy said, explaining the invitation. “So we had the other side, we had students who were on the opposing side of the GEO group gift.”
Paez spoke with the intent of dispelling rumors. “I know you’ve heard much about the GEO Group, and I’m here to share a different perspective with you,” he said.
Silence filled the House Chambers when Paez stood at the podium and defended GEO’s human rights policy.
“Our company is absolutely committed to protecting human rights,” Paez said. “We have policies and procedures that have human rights principles throughout them.”
This statement is echoed in Paez’ 20-page informational packet, which was passed out prior to his speech. “The GEO Group has always been committed to protecting the human rights of the persons entrusted to its care. Recognizing the unique nature of its operations and the significance of its relationships with government agencies, GEO has adopted a Global Human Rights policy.”
Paez then went on to discuss GEO Group’s rehabilitation and community re-entry services, its transitional housing, the GED reception rate of outgoing inmates from its facilities, and it’s support systems for rehabilitated inmates.
Then he addressed the allegations that GEO has lobbied for changing current immigration and incarceration policies. “My company has neither advocated or lobbied for any such policies,” Paez said.
Once Paez finished speaking, he answered questions asked by House Reps. “Clearly, we’re not getting any positive publicity from this, we’re doing this to help the university.”
When asked what he would say to students strongly opposed to the deal, Paez said, “Look at the totality of a company’s record, when judging the quality of a company…”
Then Paez was asked if GEO Group would still donate to FAU if the stadium deal fell through.
“Absolutely. We’ve been doing it for more than 10 years, and we will continue to support the university … We will continue to support the university as much as the university supports us,” said Paez.
After the meeting, Student Body President Robert Huffman explained why he voted to approve the GEO Group deal with the Board of Trustees, FAU’s thirteen highest ranking officials.
“It’s really tough, you know, on my part, to make a decision based off the entire student body,” Huffman said. “At the same time, I have to make a decision that benefits FAU on a long-term scale. I think it’s really important that we take these opportunities and cut the costs to students as much as we can.”
“The GEO Group has a lot to give to FAU, and we have a lot to give to our community as well,” Huffman said.
After Pablo Paez’s GEO Group presentation, the House voted on two pieces of legislation.
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[Dylan Bouscher contributed reporting to this story.]