The University of Alabama planned to return Hugh Culverhouse Jr.’s donation and remove his name form the law school, at least four days before Culverhouse called for a boycott of the school following the state’s passage of an abortion ban.
According to emails sent to AL.com, Finnis St. John, chancellor of UA System, suggested Culverhouse’s $21.5 million donation be returned on May 25, four days before Culverhouse spoke out about the abortion legislation. That followed a May 24 email request from Culverhouse that the University return $10 million.
The emails also showed Culverhouse’s interest in influencing student admissions, scholarships, faculty hiring and firing, and the employment status of the dean of the law school.
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.”
On May 29, AL.com reached out to Culverhouse after Florida Political wrote a piece detailing Culverhouse’s disdain with Alabama abortion ban law. Culverhouse told AL.com out of state students should boycott The University of Alabama and businesses should boycott the state.
“All foreign and U.S. international firms that do business in Alabama should boycott,” Culverhouse said. “It would get the law changed quickly.”
Following the AL.com article. A spokesperson from UA system quickly released a statement explaining UA’s efforts to return Culverhouse’s donations before he spoke to media about the abortion legislation.
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 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.”
Hugh Culverhouse told AL.com today his statements about abortion legislation had nothing to do with his relationship with the law school. He said his goals for the school were to raise enrollment by seven percent and find a good constitutional law professor, but was frustrated the money he had already given the school had not been used yet to fund the law school.
“I never said give all my money back,” Culverhouse said. “If it’s really bad why don’t they ask for those other gifts back.” Culverhouse said he has previously given $9 million to the university.
“Unfortunately I’m staring at Stuart [Bell’s] email at 6:53 p.m. 5/24/19 and it certainly doesn’t sound like he’s wanting to return any money,” Culverhouse said.
The Unviersity of Alabama Board of Trustees voted Friday, June 7 to return $21.5 million back to Culverhouse and rename the law school.