NOW: University of Alabama grounds crews are taking down the signage in front of UA’s School of Law. The Board of Trustees voted this morning to return Hugh Culverhouse’s $21.5 million donation and restore the name of the law school to The University of Alabama School of Law. pic.twitter.com/KmGFbaUoYg
— Chelsea Barton (@ChelseaBarton_) June 7, 2019
As previously reported, the University of Alabama returned a $21.5 million donation to major law school patron Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. Culverhouse issued a statement saying he could not be associated with an institution that supported laws like Alabama’s most recent pro-life laws.
“I expected this response from UA. 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. 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. I will not be silenced.”
However, the case might not be exactly as reported. In UA’s original response the vice chancellor for communication Kellee Reinhart said the Board had tired of Culverhouse’s interference in school affairs, as was originally reported here.
“The action taken by the Board today was a direct result of Mr. Culverhouse’s ongoing attempts to interfere in the operations of the Law School.
Perhaps it originally seemed as if Reinhart was suggesting the abortion declarations were a kind of interference, but UA has since clarified the situation. The Alabama institution claims they had already begun plans to return the donation prior to Culverhouse’s abortion remarks.
News website AL.com obtained emails between the law school Board and Culverhouse in which some staff expressed apprehension and annoyance with Culverhouse’s repeated attempts to dictate his preferences when it came to law school issues.
In the May 24 email from Culverhouse to University President Stuart Bell, Culverhouse asked for the return of $10 million because he was not happy with candidates for an endowed chair position in his name and Culverhouse demeaned the dean of the law school Mark Brandon as well as Bell.
“I wanted a renowned Constitutional law professor. Someone to make academic waves…These are nice additions to a 3880 faculty with an insecure dean-but they are hardly nationally stature constitutional law figures,” Culverhouse wrote in the email. “I believe Mark, you and I come from different concepts. I want the best law school, not a mediocre law school, whose ranking is a simple mathematical manipulation. I also know you have never dealt with a gift of my size-either for endowed professor or for a something as large as to change the name of the law school. You are unprepared. Mark will always be a small town, insecure dean. The outside world frightens him.”
In another email the wealthy donor appeared to be weighing in on matters of hiring and firing.
According to an email from law school dean Mark Brandon to Bell, Culverhouse had advocated for the firing of 10 law school professors and wanted to have access to observe law classes at his leisure during a campus visit.
“Donors may not dictate University administration,” Kellee Reinhart, senior vice chancellor of community relations for UA system, said in an emailed statement
In an email to Brandon, Culverhouse used his past involvement in aiding in the selection of the dean of UA’s business school, named after his father, as an example the power he wields as a prominent donor.
“My input was a courtesy, but it was an acknowledgement of my involvement and commitment,” Culverhouse said in an email. “The school did not get the $16MM from my father’s estate except when they agreed to my terms after 2 years of litigating.”
In a second statement on Sunday Reinhart said that the abortion angle had been played up by Culverhouse and the emails they could provide would show that funds were already on their way back to the donor before his abortion statement. View an embedded version of the document and emails here.
These emails also clearly establish that Chancellor St. John’s recommendation to refund all monies and rename the law school came on May 25- 4 days prior to any public comment by the donor about abortion. The donor’s continuing effort to rewrite history by injecting one of society’s most emotional, divisive issues into this decision is especially distasteful. These facts should finally set the record straight.
University of Alabama email… by on Scribd