University of Alabama Could Return Largest Donation Ever After Donor Encouraged Students To Boycott Due To State Abortion Law

The University of Alabama's Board of Trustees will vote on Friday regarding if the school should return a $21.5 million donation following comments made by the donor after the state passed a law that will make nearly all abortions illegal.

However, the dispute between the university and it's largest individual donor, Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. began prior to the comments the Florida tax lawyer and real estate investor made about the state's abortion bill.

According to the university, consideration of returning $21.5 million of a $26.5 million pledge are related to an ongoing dispute between the school and Culverhouse regarding how the School of Law, which was named after him in September 2018, should utilize the money.

According to AL.com, Culverhouse requested that UA return $10 million on the money due to "repeating numerous demands about the operations of the University of Alabama School of Law," vice chancellor for communications Kellee Reinhart told the media outlet in an emailed statement.

Culverhouse did admit that he told University of Alabama President Stuart Bell that the law school should use his donation to establish scholarships that would allow the school to admit more students, the Associated Press said. However, Culverhouse disputed that UA's consideration of returning his donation was over demands on how the university should use the money, calling UA officials "liars."

Culverhouse said he believes the upcoming vote by the Board — a 15-person panel that includes Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey — is due to his call for a boycott of the university and the state. He also said the university never publicly made a statement about the law school issue until news media began reporting on his call for a boycott of UA and the state of Alabama.

"I don't want anybody to go to that law school, especially women, until the state gets its act together," Culverhouse said in an interview. Days later, he told other media outlets that the boycott should also extend to businesses in Alabama.

"I cannot stand by silently and allow my name to be associated with a state educational system that teaches students law that clearly conflicts with the United States Constitution and Federal law, and which promotes blatant discrimination," Culverhouse told various media oulets in a phone interview after the story made national headlines. "The discrimination against women embodied by the law could easily be extended to other federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution decisions, which is a dangerous situation not only in Alabama but in other states contemplating similar unconstitutional laws."

The day before Culverhouse called for the boycott, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John sent an email to the Board with the recommendation that the university return the donation and rename the law school.

"After numerous conversations and communications involving President [Stuart] Bell and [School of Law Dean Mark] Brandon, it is apparent that University and law school leadership will not be able to meet the donor's expectations and do not share the same vision for the future," St. John's email said. "It is my recommendation that we comply with the request to return the recent gift, as well as the prior gifts, and restore the name 'The University of Alabama School of Law.' Returning the gifts and renaming the law school are Board decisions and can only happen by Board action."

Culverhouse told The Miami Herald that the call for a boycott in Alabama was a "dry run" should Florida attempt to pass a similar bill. State Rep. Mike Hill introduced a bill during the state's legislative session to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, but allowed exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergency.

However, Hill told a group in Pensacola that he plans to reintroduce the bill during the next legislative session without exceptions, making the bill similar to Alabama's law which is slated to go into effect in November.

"If Florida f---s with women, I'm gonna f--- with Florida," Culverhouse, a longtime support of abortion rights and a donor to Planned Parenthood, told the Herald.

Culverhouse is a Florida resident, though he was born in Alabama. He did not attend UA, but both of his parents did.

Alabama's new abortion law prohibits abortion at any time during a pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergency where the mother's life is at risk or the fetus would be stillborn or die soon after birth. The law does not allow for mental illness or "emotional conditions" to qualify as a reason for an abortion. Any abortions performed outside the law's guidelines would be considered a felony.

The law has been challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

University of Alabama School Of Law
Farrah Hall School Of Law at the University Of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on July 5, 2018. The building was renamed the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law in September 2018 after Culverhouse pledged $26.5 million to the university. Getty/Raymond Boyd
University of Alabama Could Return Largest Donation Ever After Donor Encouraged Students To Boycott Due To State Abortion Law | News