University of Alabama says its refusal of donor money was about academic integrity and not the abortion law
The University of Alabama insists its refusal of a donor’s money had nothing to do with abortion and it has released several emails to prove it.
Last week, the school returned $21.5 million to Florida-based lawyer and developer Hugh Culverhouse Jr. and removed his name from its law school. Culverhouse claims the decision was retaliation after he urged students to boycott over the state’s recently passed abortion ban. But school officials said it was not related.
Kellee Reinhart, the university’s vice chancellor for communication, said the “decision was never about the issue of abortion” in a statement that included emails between university officials and Culverhouse, as well as internal emails about the attorney.
“It was about ending the continued outside interference by the donor into the operations of The University of Alabama School of Law,” Reinhart added.
The emails show that Culverhouse intended to meddle into student admissions, faculty hiring and even the employment status of the law school dean, the university said. They also show school leaders wanted to refund the gift and rename the school since “May 25 — four days before the public comment by the donor about abortion.”
It appears in the emails provided by the university that Culverhouse disliked the candidates for an endowed professor in his name and asked the school to return a $10 million donation he had made.
According to the university, he wrote:
- “I wanted a renowned Constitutional law professor. Someone to make academic waves … These are nice additions to a 3,880 faculty with an insecure dean-but they are hardly nationally stature,” in an email to Stuart R. Bell, president of the University of Alabama.
- “This year I paid the University $10M in advanced of the scheduled payment date. I would like those funds returned. You can send a check or wire transfer,” in another email from May 24.
CNN has reached out to Culverhouse for comment.
Culverhouse pledged a total of $26.5 million last year, the largest gift in the university’s 187-year history. The university named its law school for him then.
He told The Washington Post he had asked for the return of his $10 million donation. He also said he had asked university officials to “wait on a hiring decision until the state abortion ban was dealt with in federal court,” the newspaper reported.
“The donor’s continuing effort to rewrite history by injecting one of society’s most emotional, divisive issues into this decision is especially distasteful,” the university’s statement said. “These facts should finally set the record straight.”
Culverhouse had denied asking for a refund.
“I want to make clear that I never demanded that $21.5 million be refunded and wonder if the University is attempting to silence my opinions by their quick response,” he said in a statement Friday.
Culverhouse did not attend the university, but his parents did. Hugh Culverhouse Sr. owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 19 years until his death in 1994. The Alabama business college is named for him.
“I will not allow my family’s name to be associated with an educational system that advocates a state law which discriminates against women, disregards established Federal law and violates our Constitution,” Culverhouse had said.