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University to return $26.5mn donation over benefactor's pro-choice views

University to return $26.5mn donation over benefactor's pro-choice views
The University of Alabama is considering rejecting a $26.5mn donation after its benefactor called on students to boycott the school over Alabama's strict new abortion law, which criminalizes the procedure in almost all cases.

The school's board of trustees is expected to reject philanthropist and lawyer Hugh Culverhouse Jr's donation, return the $21.5 million it has already received, and remove Culverhouse's name from the law school on Friday. The gift, announced in September, was the largest in the university's history.

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While the school claims the disagreement has nothing to do with the abortion law, there was no outward hint of a problem until last Wednesday, when Culverhouse called on students to boycott the university to protest the draconian law, which threatens any doctor performing an abortion with up to 99 years in prison and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

"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 last week. "I cannot stand by silently and allow my name to be associated with a state educational system that teaches law that clearly conflicts with the United States Constitution and federal law." He denounced the policy as more restrictive than Saudi Arabia's and has also called for a boycott of major corporations doing business in Alabama.

Culverhouse did ask for $10 million of his donation back after he learned the university was not planning to use it to expand the law school. "The whole point of the money was scholarships and teachers," he said. But the school eventually agreed to increase enrollment, ending the disagreement, he claimed.

The university accused Culverhouse of making "numerous demands" to go along with his millions. Donors "may not dictate university administration," the chancellor chided in a statement released the same day as his boycott comments. "None of the issues between the law school and Mr. Culverhouse had anything to do with the passage of legislation in which the university had no role."

Culverhouse, who has given more than $40 million to the school his parents attended in the last decade alone, describes himself as a political independent and said he believes the university is lashing out over his pro-choice comments, dismissing them as "liars," according to AP. He plans to redirect his money to back a legal challenge to the abortion law, which goes into effect in November.

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"You probably shouldn't put a living person's name on a building, because at some point they might get fed up and start talking."

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