UA considers Tuomey Hall for Sen. Shelby’s legislative library

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Writer

The University is considering repurposing Tuomey Hall, one of the twin buildings beside Gorgas Library reserved for the Blount Scholars Program, to house the legislative work of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a UA alumnus.

In May, the University considered repurposing Oliver-Barnard Hall — the Blount building opposite Tuomey Hall — as the future home for Shelby’s documents. 

When the University considered reallocating Tuomey Hall last spring, a group of Blount students created a petition to keep Oliver-Barnard Hall within the bounds of the Blount Program. Students sent the petition, which contained over five pages of electronic signatures from current members, alumni and “friends” of the program, to various UA administrators.

The University thanked them for their email. The plans to repurpose Oliver-Barnard died out with no formal announcement from the University until the consideration of Tuomey Hall this semester. 

Frederick Whiting, director of the Blount Scholars program, sent an email to Blount students on Sept. 9. 

“[College of Arts and Sciences] Dean [Joseph] Messina has informed me that discussion to repurpose Oliver Barnard as part of the Senator Shelby initiative seems to have abated,” Whiting wrote. “However, he also informs me that the System Office is now considering repurposing Tuomey Hall, instead of Oliver Barnard. Neither he nor I have any further details (when and if it will be voted on by the trustees, particulars, proposed timeline, etc.) about this.”

In Whiting’s email, he maintained his neutrality on the matter. He took the same stance in May when plans for Oliver-Barnard Hall were discussed. 

The University has not provided a reason for the new consideration of Tuomey Hall. According to Blair Taylor, a spokesperson for Shelby, “the conception and implementation of any effort to transform any UA building is the responsibility of the University. Senator Shelby is not involved in any attempt to do so.”

UA System spokesperson Lynn Cole confirmed that the reallocation of Tuomey Hall is not on the agenda for the Sept. 16 and 17 Board of Trustees meeting. 

The Blount Instagram account posted a picture on Monday advocating for the protection of Tuomey Hall for the Blount Program. The post was later deleted due to a pause in student action.

UA spokesperson Shane Dorrill said the University will coordinate with the leaders of the Blount Program pending renovations to either Oliver-Barnard or Tuomey Hall. 

“In accordance with our Campus Master Plan, the University is constantly assessing the physical facilities on our campus. Preliminary discussions have occurred about possible renovations to several buildings on campus, including both Oliver-Barnard Hall and Tuomey Hall.”

Joseph Messina’s office declined to comment.