Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No Thanks

Our earlier posts on the Sterling affair and UCLA noted the embarrassing ad that appeared in the LA Times on Sunday in which Sterling announced his donation to the UCLA Dept. of Nephrology.  See UCLA has now rejected the donation.  The university also took pains to point out that Sterling took out the ad thanking himself.  And it said, apparently in communications with the news media, that the promise of a lab naming and signage thanking is not part of the written record related to the donation.

The official statement from UCLA is at

In that UCLA statement we find:
...UCLA has received numerous inquiries about an advertisement in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times falsely suggesting that it was UCLA publicly thanking him for the gift. The ad was placed by Mr. Sterling, not the university.

From the Daily Bruin:
...The ad claims that a gold-colored plaque will be placed in the main lobby of UCLA’s nephrology building in honor of the Sterlings. It also claims UCLA plans to name a research lab in their name, “The UCLA Donald T. Sterling Structural Biology Kidney Research Laboratory.” However, UCLA said it did not place the ad in the paper. It said the ad falsely suggests the university is publicly thanking Sterling for the donation. UCLA said it thinks Sterling placed the ad in the paper. Documentation concerning the donation does not address any signage or naming of a research laboratory, according to a UCLA statement...

Full story at

From the LA Times:
...The university... denied Sterling's previous boasts that his donation and pledge were supposed to lead UCLA to name a lab after him and his wife...

Full story at

It's worth parsing this story a bit more.  No one who ever read the LA Times - and someone in the UCLA fund raising area must be reading the paper - could not have known that Sterling would run an ad thanking himself (since the newspaper over the years was filled with such self-promotion ads).  Sterling also promoted his real estate holdings, law firm, etc. in such ads.  You can find a sampling of Sterling ads from the LA Times in  So that an ad would appear was never in question. 

What about the signage and the lab naming.  It is quite possible that Sterling invented these claims on his own.  He is known for placing ads in the LA Times thanking himself for a homeless facility and for some kind of children's summer camp that don't exist beyond a concept in his own mind.  However, the Daily Bruin's version of the signage-lab part of the story seems to rest on a statement by UCLA that the signage and lab are not part of the written documentation.  That statement doesn't rule out that some UCLA fundraising official did not make some kind of oral hint to Sterling about the signage and lab.  It seems unlikely that UCLA received a check in the mail from Sterling without some romancing by fund raisers.  If you stopped 100 billionaires on the street (that's a joke, friends!) and asked them what the word "nephrology" meant, how many would know?  (Maybe it involves the study of nephews.)  Did Sterling or someone close to him have kidney problems?  Exactly, how was he approached?  What was said, apart from written documentation?  Was whoever did the romancing unaware of Sterling's ad running, legal problems over racial discrimination in housing, etc.?

We are not saying that every donor's past baggage has to be closely scrutinized.  There is odd naming around that doesn't do much harm.  One could wonder about naming the UCLA's (public) hospital after Ronald Reagan - who railed against socialized medicine.  (The naming was the result of support obtained by former Reagan associates.)  UC supports the Keck telescope.  Keck was a California oilman. He never forgave then-California Governor Earl Warren for founding the state's freeway system in 1947 by imposing a hike in the gasoline tax and he (Keck) was much involved in the later extreme right-wing "Impeach Earl Warren campaign" when Warren was Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  UCLA undoubtedly has received numerous Ford Foundation grants although Henry Ford was notorious for fostering virulent anti-Semitism though a newspaper he owned in the 1920s. 

There are undoubtedly other such examples.  But the passage of time helps.  The Ford Foundation no longer has any links to the car company and Henry is long since dead.  Generally, naming things after dead people is less likely to cause embarrassment than naming them after live people - who still have the capacity to undertake new indiscretions.  While total screening for political correctness is not called for, UCLA might take the opportunity created by the Sterling for revisiting and revising internal guidelines for fund raisers concerning who to romance and what to say (oral as well as written) to potential targets of such romancing.

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