University of Alabama spurns $21.5 million from donor critical of abortion law

Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA - March 31, 2011: Flower planter on The University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Planter has university logo engraved. Campus space in background.

The University of Alabama returned $21.5 million Friday to a donor who urged students to boycott over the state’s recently passed abortion ban.

Hugh Culverhouse Jr. called it retaliation for his position against the controversial law. University officials said it was not related.

Culverhouse, a Florida lawyer and developer, originally pledged a total of $26.5 million last year. The university named its law school for him then, which was the largest gift in the university’s 187-year history

The university removed his name from the law school’s sign on Friday after the board of trustees voted to return the $21.5 million he had given so far.

“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,” according to a statement from Kellee Reinhart, the university’s vice chancellor for communication.

“That was the only reason the Board voted to remove his name and return his money. Any attempt by Mr. Culverhouse to tie this action to any other issue is misleading and untrue,” she said.

The university last week said Culverhouse asked for $10 million back and had made demands about the law school.

“Donors may not dictate University administration,” the school said in a statement.

Culverhouse 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 said.

He repeated his call for students to protest and “reconsider their educational options in Alabama.” He also urged out-of-state businesses to “consider the consequences” of working in Alabama.

Culverhouse said in an op-ed published in The Washington Post that he believes the university’s decision will harm those who need help the most.

“Fewer students will have scholarships that could provide resources for them to unlock their potential, and administrators have sent a message to young women that their agency is not respected or valued,” he wrote in the opinion piece.

“Whether my name is taken down is unimportant, but I hope university administrators will contemplate all the names that will never appear on their admissions rolls, as well,” he wrote.

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