Campus renovations approved to accommodate Senator Shelby’s archives 

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Reporter

The career documents of Alabama Senator and two-time UA alumnus Richard Shelby are headed to the Capstone.

On Nov. 5, the University of Alabama System board of trustees approved the renovation of Oliver-Barnard Hall and Tuomey Hall to house the documents, which include correspondences with past U.S. presidents and foreign leaders, video clips of senate hearings, and drafts of speeches throughout Shelby’s career. 

Shelby will donate these documents at the end of his sixth term in the U.S. Senate since he will not seek reelection next year. 

“I have been extremely fortunate to serve the people of Alabama for more than 40 years and cannot think of a more appropriate place to house my official papers than my alma mater,” Shelby told the University.

The University said that with these papers will come the opportunity for annual lecture series, speakers from across the political spectrum, specialized courses based on the documents, and interactions with political leaders, analysts and policies. 

“As a longtime champion for research and education, it’s hard to imagine anyone who has made more of an impact on Alabama’s higher-ed landscape than Sen. Shelby,” said W. Stancil Starnes, the board of trustees president pro tempore.

The total project budget is $15 million, with funding from the University Central Reserves. 

Updates will be made in classrooms, offices, conference rooms, lounges, elevators, restrooms and public corridors. 

While most renovations will be internal, UA Provost James Dalton also expects external renovations to include an outdoor courtyard to serve as a gathering place for students. 

Blount Scholars Program

Tuomey and Oliver-Barnard Hall are currently dedicated to the Blount Scholars Program, a liberal arts minor that primarily recruits and admits students before they begin their freshman year. Dalton said the renovations will improve the Blount program and allow for the housing of Shelby’s documents.

Previous plans for the acquisition of Shelby’s papers threatened to displace the Blount program, but the University has expressed plans to collaborate with them instead. 

Dalton said that Blount will maintain primary use of Oliver-Barnard Hall and access to the two halls. 

The program’s faculty, student leadership and members have been in the dark about these plans since an email from Blount Scholars Program Director Frederick Whiting on Sept. 5. Whiting shared “what little information I currently possess about the UA System Office’s plans.”

Student leaders John Pace and Maggie Palmer were not notified ahead of Friday’s meeting, but the resolution appeared on the public agenda posted earlier this week. 

“The Blount [program] occupies Oliver-Barnard and also has a presence in Tuomey,” Dalton said. “And we thought, by placing this new leadership program in Tuomey, it allows us to synergize with their current program, and it also quite frankly gives us the ability to renovate Blount and Tuomey, which serves great benefit to the scholars.”

Pace, a senior and the director of the Blount Scholars Ambassadors, said he is tired of defending the Blount-designated buildings. 

“I have been fighting this since the start of this summer, and it has been frankly weighing on my experience as a student and a senior here. I care deeply about my program and my people,” Pace said.

Pace fears there will be a lack of collaboration with the program despite Dalton’s suggestions otherwise. 

“At this point, I just want to work with whoever is planning this,” Pace said. “Whether that is the College of Arts and Sciences or Rose [administration] or the System’s office … because no one has reached out to me or any other Blount students as far as I know.”

Pace said he hopes the Blount program’s Danford-Yarbrough Library will be supported throughout the renovations. 

College of Arts and Sciences Scholars Program

The renovation plans introduce a tentative new College of Arts and Sciences Scholars Program aimed at rising juniors and seniors interested in public service. The program will be housed in Tuomey Hall and count as a minor degree, primarily serving students majoring in political science, history and American studies. 

It is expected to attract at least 100 students. 

The CAS Scholars Program hopes to bring in individuals and speakers to present as a part of their lecture series event, highlighting personal experiences in the fields of public policy, law, policy, history, communication, oration and public discourse. 

Correction: This story was updated on Nov. 7 to remove a sentence crediting another student for the creation of a petition in May. Maggie Palmer was the primary author of the petition concerning the potential loss of Oliver-Barnard Hall.