Mizzou blames 'differing interpretations' after spending money against conservative donor's wishes

According to the settlement, the schools will split $9.2 million and Hillsdale will give up oversight of how the money is spent.

The University of Missouri has settled a lawsuit by Hillsdale College after it allegedly failed to honor a conservative donor's wishes.

The University of Missouri settled a lawsuit with Hillsdale College, an agreement valued at about $9.2 million. 

According to the University of Missouri, the two schools will split the amount in half. The late conservative donor Sherlock Hibbs, a 1926 Mizzou graduate, donated the amount to his alma mater to fund multiple professorships, which were to be staffed by free-market economics experts. The donor stipulated that Hillsdale College, a conservative school located in Michigan, must verify every four years  that each position was filled with “a dedicated and articulate disciple of the Ludwig von Mises (Austrian) School of Economics.”

Hillsdale College sued the University of Missouri in 2019 after it said that Mizzou failed to abide by the stipulations that Hibbs had set on his $5 million gift. According to the lawsuit, UM “falsely certified” to Hillsdale its compliance with the donor’s wishes. 

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Hillsdale sought up to $14 million in the suit, which would have accounted for the original $5 million gift, additional money the school earned using the amount, plus any additional dollars that MIzzou compensated individuals in the professorships who did not meet the criteria set forth by Hibbs. 

”The settlement indicates the parties have agreed to disagree on their differing interpretations of the gift requirements,” the University of Missourisaid regarding the settlement. “During negotiations, university officials determined the most fiscally responsible course of action was to settle the lawsuit and split the endowment. The settlement allows the University of Missouri to keep nearly the entire sum of the original bequest. Additionally, Hillsdale will relinquish oversight of the gift and no longer require the University of Missouri to submit any documentation.”

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Former Missouri Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon, who represented Hillsdale in the case, expressed doubt in 2019 about whether Mizzou ever really planned to honor the conservative donor’s stipulations: “Missouri University never embraced Mr. Hibbs’ intent, and consequently students aren’t getting the exposure to intellectual philosophies necessary for broad-based education.” 

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