Sunday, March 03, 2013

University naming rights for prison controversy--how it will end

A university sells stadium naming rights to a for-profit prison operator, now dealing with fallout.

This feels like an easy one to predict. Tactics of the university president Mary Jane Saunders--who comes across as under-informed, bought and paid for: brush the whole thing off as a done deal. Let me go on record spelling out the predictable "I've seen this movie" outcome: 
  • Continued controversy
  • Further "revelations" that cast the prison operator, GEO Group, in an unfavorable light
  • Not guaranteed, but likely, additional revelations about how cozy the university president and/or administration is with GEO Group
  • Writing on the wall for all to read, and the parties mutually agree to cancel the contract
  • In canceling, Saunders misses the opportunity for a full-throated apology
  • Calls for president's resignation
  • President does not resign as an immediate outcome (unless a true smoking gun is found), but her tenure is substantially foreshortened

It all seems so obvious. If Saunders could just bring herself to do the right thing and reverse course, she could easily survive this. The fact that she seems to be sticking it out suggests to me that either there is more to implicate her, or she is just very tight with GEO Group and their president, and can't bring herself to ditch a friend. Ironically, though, she would be doing both parties in the friendship a huge favor if she did just that. We are dealing with students here. Even if they weren't in the right--which I think they are--this is just the kind of thing youth protest thrives on. It is a no-win for the university to try to tough it out.

(PS this brouhaha highlights two deplorable trends: The phenomenon of "naming rights", and the outrageous cost of higher education.)

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