Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Auburn vandal not affiliated with UA


Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., 62, of Dadeville, has been arrested and charged with first-degree criminal mischief for poisoning the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, Auburn University Police Chief Tommy Dawson said in a news conference Thursday.

“The University of Alabama is glad that the individual responsible for damaging the trees will be held accountable,” said Deborah Lane, assistant vice president for University Relations. “The individual who was arrested has never attended The University of Alabama, and has never been a season ticket holder. He is not affiliated with the University in any way.”

Even though Updyke is not a University student or alumnus, some Alabama students still want to showtheir support to Auburn in the loss of the oaks. Kelsie van Wyck, a sophomore majoring in human development family studies, and Kayleigh Moring, a sophomore majoring in healthcare management, said they hope to coordinate a fundraiser to help in the restoration of Toomer’s Corner.

“Our first reaction to hearing the news was disgust,” van Wyck said. “We know how important traditions are to a university, and we could not imagine one of our time honored traditions being destroyed like the trees on Toomer’s Corner. We also felt that this action gave the entire university a bad name and portrays us as classless, which we are not.”

Van Wyck said they are still at the beginning of the process of deciding how to raise the funds, but they will be meeting with administrators Friday to discuss further plans.

“After talking to a forester, we were informed that a single mature live oak of appropriate size can cost up to $30,000,” van Wyck said. “We don’t take responsibility for [Updyke’s] actions or comments, but we saw this as an opportunity to bring together state rivals during a time when competition is so heated. We were disgusted at this alleged fan for giving the University of Alabama such a bad name. No true fan of the Crimson Tide would represent our university so poorly.”

SGA President James Fowler said does not demonstrate the values of UA students.

“I’ve spoken with Auburn SGA President Kurt Sasser and expressed my condolences,”  Student Government Association President James Fowler said. “This sort of assault on an age-old tradition is unacceptable and only cheapens the long and respectful rivalry that our schools share. In no way, shape or form do the actions of one person—a person who, to my knowledge, has never been connected to or associated with The University of Alabama in any official capacity — reflect the values of our student body.”

If proven guilty, Updyke could face one to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines, according to Alabama law.

Dawson said Updyke may be facing more charges in the future, but he did not wish to elaborate.

“This is a person who obviously has problems to do something like this,” he said. “So we want to use caution and let the justice system take its course.”

In an affidavit filed Wednesday morning in the Lee County Circuit Court, Col. Melvin Owens, executive director of Security and Public Safety at Auburn University, said a professor of turfgrass management got a suspicious telephone voice message from a caller claiming to have knowledge of the poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s Corner Feb. 7, according to The voice on the message was consistent with the voice that had called a radio talk show Jan. 28, according to the affidavit.

Soil tests confirmed that the trees had been poisoned with the powerful herbicide Spike DF, and as a result they are dying. When asked at the news conference if there was any way the trees would survive, Auburn professor of horticulture Stephen Enloe choked up and said it was an emotional question.

“I almost want to hold out hope,” he said.

Stephen Baugh, an Auburn senior majoring in history, said he thinks the fundraiser idea that van Wyck and Moring are proposing is great, because it shows that even though the schools are rivals, they can come together and represent the state of Alabama in a good light.

“Everybody here thinks it’s a tragedy,” Baugh said. “I just think it’s someone who wants to entice the Auburn family and the Auburn tradition. It’s a little premature to assume the suspect is even an Alabama fan, although most of the campus thinks it has to do with the Alabama rivalry. We can always replace the trees.”

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