Tulane University Wins Donor Intent Lawsuit

Earlier this week, the Louisiana Supreme Court blocked an effort by supporters of Newcomb College to separate the college from Tulane University--Newcomb had merged with Tulane's undergraduate college in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. By a vote of 4 to 2 with one abstention, the court let a lower court's ruling stand in Tulane's favor.

"The fight between Tulane and the supporters of Newcomb was one of the major legal battles in higher education in recent years over 'donor intent'--and the obligation of colleges to follow the wishes of those who make generous contributions," writes Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik. "In this case, Tulane was accused of betraying the wishes of Josephine Newcomb, who gave the university $100,000 in 1886 to establish (and more gifts and a bequest later to support) a college to honor the memory of her late daughter, Sophie Newcomb. The plaintiffs in the case--including a great-great-great-niece of the donor--argued that Tulane's actions undercut the faith donors could have in gifts to colleges."

"Tulane merged its separate undergraduate colleges for men and for women in 2006 as part of a sweeping restructuring plan after Hurricane Katrina caused widespread damage to the campus and forced it to close for a semester," writes The Chronicle of Higher Education's Katherine Mangan. "Tulane established the Newcomb College Institute to offer leadership and research programs for undergraduate women, but eliminated Newcomb College as a separate, degree-granting institution."

Following the Louisiana Supreme Court's ruling, the supporters' group, The Future of Newcomb College, released a statement on its Web site. "We are more than disappointed in the result," it said. "Throughout this long and arduous battle, we never doubted that those who fought for the continued existence of Newcomb College were on the right side of history. While the college that she established has been lost, due to the misguided efforts of a few, the legacy of Mrs. Newcomb's courage as a nineteenth-century woman will never be forgotten by those of us who care about honor and respect. She was a significant person in the history of New Orleans, and nothing done by the current administration of Tulane University can ever change that."