Enjoy Those Bell Chimes, UCI!

Diane Jong/File Photo

In 1962, master planner and architect William Pereira drew up several proposals for Aldrich Park that included lakes and a bell tower. The tower, named “centrum,” was supposed to be located at the center of campus, in the middle of the park, where carillons would ring every hour in the spirit of centuries-old tradition. Forty-six years after UC Irvine officially opened, Pereira’s plans for a bell tower have come to fruition – except it’s probably not what he was expecting.

Thanks to the class of 2010’s senior gift, UCI now has its very own bell tower, located at the edge of campus on the corner of West Peltason and Pereira Drive. The carillon system is located in the already-existing Student Center tower. However, the bell in the tower is “just for show” because the sound of the bells is electronic.

While it’s a nice attempt to give the campus a more collegiate feel, we think it’s an unnecessary addition in this day and age.

The carillon tradition dates back to early medieval times. The bells were first used to signal emergencies, and then were used to tell time by ringing on the hour with various tunes. Bell towers were also used as meeting places in cities and communities.

In 2011, on a campus less than 50 years old where everybody has a cell phone or iPod to tell the time, the new addition of the bells have just become a nuisance. Inside the theatres at the School of the Arts, inside the dorms of Mesa Court (where sleeping-in may become impossible), inside Langson Library and Gateway Study Center and even in the parking lot outside of In-N-Out at 1 in the morning, the bells can be heard on the hour, every hour. For $8,538.82, we’ll always know when it’s a new hour.

Of course, by the time the initial chimes finish and the gong(s) to sound the hour begins, you could pick up your phone and check the time yourself. Not to mention, the tower isn’t located in a central part of campus, so it isn’t like it would be used as a meeting place either.

It’s been publicized that the bells are also going to be used during campus emergencies to broadcast messages from UCIPD. But isn’t that what zotALERTs are for? The zotALERT text messages and Zotmails to our email addresses have been persistent and effective in alerting us of various campus crime activities. We don’t exactly need a new $8,538.82 system to replace that.

The electronic system and mock bell that hangs in the tower is all part of an appearance, which seems to be par for the course in this Ultimate Planned City. Other UCs that boast bell towers at least have actual bells in them, not to mention they’ve existed as a part of their respective campuses for decades.

For $8,000-plus dollars, how about taking a page from Gettysburg College and keeping the libraries open for 24 hours? Or from UC Berkeley, whose class of 2005 donated straight to the Cal Fund, which supports academic programs, campus safety, libraries and financial aid packages? Other UCs also allow graduates to donate money for a class gift that will benefit their own school directly; UCLA’s engineering class of 2010, for example, added printers in their computer labs and new computers for the student lounge as well.

Senior class gifts are nice ways to show appreciation. Past class gifts have included anteater statues, which at least attempt to instill some school spirit around campus; this year’s class gift is a scholarship — something academia-related, at least. But a fake bell? It feels unnecessary, especially considering that the Student Center was remodeled just a few years ago. In fact, we still pay Student Center fees in our quarterly registration fees. The bell must not be in the budget from those fees, it seems.

In a time when universities are tightening their purse strings and raising tuition and other fees, a more apt use for any incoming donation would be to give that money back to the students, back to programs and services that are being cut and back to a campus that needs more than just appearances; it needs to actually be a college that provides and serves its community.

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