UA to Consider Returning $21.5 Million in Dispute with Donor

Corey.C, Flickr

Attorney Hugh Culverhouse Jr. has given tens of millions of dollars to the University of Alabama. But earlier this week in response to the state’s strict abortion ban, Culverhouse called for a boycott of the school, and he urged businesses to do the same.

Culverhouse says the university depends on tuition dollars, particularly from out of state students. He says seeing that money dry up would send a clear message to state leaders.

“A boycott could wake up a lot of people,” he says, calling Alabama’s law unconstitutional and dangerous. “Why are you hurting women? Why are you criminalizing doctors?”

Officials at UA say they have been in an ongoing dispute with Culverhouse over demands he had made around how the law school is run. A statement from the university says last week Culverhouse asked the school to return $10 million he had given. The statement says donors do not dictate the actions of university administration.

Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University, says it is not unheard of for there to be friction between donors and universities. But he says this conflict appears to be different.

“In this case part of what the donor is interested in is trying to influence state government officials. And the university of course doesn’t have any direct control over that,” Whittington says. “It’s unusual for a donor to try to leverage their interest in a university to try to make this larger political point.”

UA officials say the system’s chancellor will recommend the board of trustees return Culverhouse’s gift and remove his name from the law school. The board could vote on that decision next week.

But Culverhouse on Thursday told WBHM his beef with the university is over and he does not want the money back. He suggests his opposition to the abortion law is what is driving school leaders to consider returning his check.

The University of Alabama declined further comment.

Photo by Corey.C

Editor Note: The University of Alabama sponsors some programming on WBHM, but our news and business departments operate independently.

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