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Ohio State retires class bell system

Brandon Rosin / Lantern photographer

The bells that ring between classes will ring for the last time at 4:18 p.m. on Friday, and will silence forever.

With the end of the quarter system, Ohio State is retiring the bell system that rings at the beginning and end of classes.

“We knew this change was coming. It was something being talked about for a while, even before we knew we were switching to semesters,” said Jack Miner, associate registrar. “It’s a really good reminder for students to prepare for semesters. It’s one more opportunity for everyone to realize things are going to be different.”

One reason the bell system will be retired with the quarter system is that few universities use bells at all. Miner said it was probably just tradition at this point.

“For years, probably for literally close to a dozen years, the university has talked about how the bell system was an outdated model,” Miner said. “I think it probably started long enough ago that it was probably commonplace in most universities. The difference for us is the schools we compare ourselves to most frequently now are large research universities, and when you get into that size or reputation, it’s almost unheard of to have bells.”

Miner said practicalities also played a role in the decision, as the bell system cannot accommodate variations in the times that classes begin under semesters.

“In the quarter system, our classes were really structured around 48 minutes,” Miner said. “It was a very clean system.”

Bells currently ring on the hour, half hour, 18- and 48-minute mark, but on the semester model, Miner said that there are two ways courses can be administered. They can be held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 55 minute periods, or Tuesdays and

Thursdays for 80 minute periods. This will result is classes in different patterns ending at different times, meaning that bells could be disruptive to some classes.

Under the quarter system however, bells rang during the middle of some hour-and-48-minute classes, which Sarah Dingeldein, a third-year in sociology and criminology, said she found disruptive.

“I actually like having class without bells. If a bell rings in the middle of an hour-and-48-minute class, it distracts everyone,” Dingeldein said.

Alex Boyes, a first-year in exploration, disagrees.

“(Professors dismissing class) is like middle school. It’s cool when there’s a bell. (The professor) can’t keep talking when the bell goes off,” Boyes said. “A couple of minutes at the end can make all the difference if someone has to get to another class. It’s always nice to have something official.” 

While Boyes likes the bell system ending classes, Barry Golestany, a third-year in chemistry and a teaching assistant for chemistry courses, said he likes the bell system to start classes.

“Looking at it from a teacher’s standpoint, when I teach I look for that bell,” Golestany said. “When the bell rings, everyone stays quiet and they know that I’m about to start talking.”

Like Golestany, Terry Wilson, an earth sciences professor, said he has grown accustomed to teaching with the bells.

“I’ve taught here for over 25 years and I’ve become like Pavlov’s dog. I cannot start lecturing until the bell rings and the only thing that makes me stop lecturing is when the bell rings,” Wilson said.

Wilson must contend with the bells outside of the classroom as well. Her Orton Hall office is next to a bell, and she hears every ring when she’s working.

“In terms of normal life in my office and lab and working in here, I’ll be very glad to have them gone because they are very sort of disturbing,” Wilson said.

While Wilson’s office is in a building with a bell system, not all buildings on campus are equipped with bells.

“There’s about 45 to 50 buildings that have classrooms, so the way the bell system traditionally works, bells were in buildings that had general purpose classrooms but not in buildings that may only have labs or offices. The bells were targeted toward undergraduate coursework,” Miner said.

OSU has been transitioning to a bell-free university for years.

“Any new building built in the last five years were built without a bell system, so we essentially saved money on construction without putting a bell system in those buildings,” Miner said.

Although the bells will not ring anymore, they will remain on the walls until schedule renovations remove them.

“We won’t go through and systematically take them out because there’s no value in that,” Miner said. “As buildings and electrical systems are upgraded over the next few years, they’ll be removed as part of that process.”

Miner, an OSU alumnus, said he knows the absence of bells on campus will be strange.

“I did my undergrad and graduate work at Ohio State, and I must admit it will be very unusual to be in a class and not hear a bell ring,” Miner said. “I think there was some sentimentality to keeping the bells … There’s no one at Ohio State who remembers not having a bell system.”  

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