Stanford University on Boston Legal

Published on

San Jose Mercury News (California)

Hollywood hasn’t been too kind to Stanford University this year.

First, Los Angeles producer Steve Bing took the school to task for its partnership with oil giant ExxonMobil — and rescinded a promise to give his alma mater $2.5 million.

This week, it was the Emmy award-winning drama “Boston Legal” that took a shot, telling the thinly veiled tale of Stanford suing a character who withdrew a $3 million pledge. The character broke off financial ties with the school after learning that ExxonMobil donated $100 million to Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project.

In real life, that relationship exists and the university has been criticized for allowing the oil company to use the school’s name and logo in newspaper and television spots.

“I don’t know what the people at Stanford would be thinking about it, but I think it’s wonderful that one of the premiere vehicles of popular culture clearly understands the serious issues at stake when you’re talking about corporate financing of universities,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica.

Iowa State, UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Texas A&M have all accepted millions from oil producers such as BP and Chevron.

Stanford officials had no comment about the TV episode — the show’s season premiere — which aired Tuesday night.

But Bing’s camp, for its part, was “pleasantly surprised” to see the issue raised during prime time.

“Certainly, Stanford’s deal with ExxonMobil was damned in the court of public opinion on Tuesday night,” said Yusef Robb, who works closely with Bing on environmental issues.

“Unfortunately,” he quipped, “Stanford and ExxonMobil weren’t on ‘Divorce Court’ — ending their relationship.”
Contact Julie Sevrens Lyons at [email protected] or (408) 920-5989.

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