University of Alabama returns $20 million gift after donor urges boycott over state’s new abortion law

The University of Alabama’s board of trustees have voted to return a massive gift to their biggest donor and to remove that donor’s name from their law school.

The decision comes after Hugh Culverhouse Jr. spoke out about the new abortion law in Alabama and urged students and businesses to boycott the state over the legislation.

(Screenshot: @ChelseaBarton_ Twitter)

Culverhouse had previously promised to donate a total of $26.5 million to the University of Alabama over the course of four years. Following Culverhouse’s call for a political boycott, the university returned $21.5 million to their biggest donor, which was every cent he had already donated. The school announced that the transaction to return the money was processed on Friday morning.

The president of the university, Stuart Bell, said in a public statement, “This decision was made for reasons of academic and institutional integrity. I appreciate the actions of the Chancellor and our Board of Trustees and their unwavering support of these intrinsic values.”

In another public statement, the school tried to downplay the role Culverhouse’s call for a boycott had in the decision to return the man’s donations.

“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,” the university’s vice chancellor for communication, Kellee Reinhart, said. “That was the only reason the Board voted to remove his name and return his money.”

In his own public statement, Culverhouse made clear that he never demanded that the money be returned to him, but that he’s not surprised it was. He also called the move by the school as attempt to “silence” him.

“I expected this response from UA,” he said. “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.”

He continued, “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.”

Culverhouse had directly criticized the University of Alabama before his donation was returned. When calling for a boycott of Alabama, he said of Alabama University, “I don’t want anybody to go to that law school, especially women, until the state gets its act together.”

Alabama Chancellor Finis St. John reportedly recommended returning the donor’s money, saying how Culverhouse wanted his monetary gift spent was “inconsistent with the essential values” of the university.

“Despite the diligent efforts and good faith of our Dean and President, there is no path forward consistent with those values. While we are grateful to all of our donors and supporters, and very grateful to this donor and his family, donors do not dictate our administration of the University,” St. John said in a statement.

Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr., 70, is a real estate investor. Culverhouse’s previous contribution was the biggest ever promised to the University of Alabama.


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