Donor sues UBC law school for failing to put his name on all its degrees

Philanthropist and lawyer Peter Allard and his foundation are taking the University of British Columbia to court, claiming UBC breached a $30 million gift agreement by failing to include his name on law school graduate certificates.

Allard and the Allard Prize Foundation filed a petition in BC Supreme Court on November 5 seeking leave to appeal an arbitrator’s decision on the dispute. According to the petition, Allard and the foundation made a $30 million donation to UBC in 2014.

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“The 2014 Gift Agreement imposes naming and branding obligations in relation to the Faculty of Law at UBC in perpetuity,” the petition states. The deal requires the university to “exclusively use ‘Peter A. Allard School of Law’” on degree certificates and the school’s website.

But the university’s senate first resolved to use the name on graduate degree certificates “if so requested by Faculty,” which was later revised to reflect “that the Law School was permanently renamed and the Name was not an alternate or replacement name.” In May 2016, juris doctor degrees were amended with the “Peter A. Allard School of Law,” but other degree certificates “did not include the Name in any way.”

“The Petitioners did not, and do not, seek to have the Graduate Degree Certificates refer solely to the Name, but only sought a reasonable reference to the Name on such Degree Certificates,” the petition states.

In August 2018, Allard took the university to arbitration in the naming dispute. The petition states that “even though the subjective evidence regarding the meaning of ‘degree certificates’ was deemed inadmissible, it was the only factor that the arbitrator considered in any detail in his analysis.”

During the arbitration, it came out that Allard wasn’t told that both the master of laws and PhD programs were administered outside the faculty of law. However, the arbitrator sided with UBC, finding that the gift agreement covered only “certificates or parchments granted upon the recommendation of the Peter A. Allard School of Law and not otherwise.”

Allard and the foundation seek leave to appeal the arbitrator’s award. The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court, and UBC had not responded to the petition by press time.

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