The loud class bells that announced the transitions between classes across campus during the 2019-2020 school year are now gone. According to Rajesh Mundra, Dean of Studies and Instructor in Biology, the change was made due to inconsistencies in the bells across campus and feedback from faculty members.
“This year, we started to recognize that class bells are really inconsistent around campus—some buildings have them, other buildings don’t. Some buildings where the class bells go off, they go off really loudly, and it’s kind of like a shock. In others, it feels a little bit more natural. So we just wanted to try not having class bells in our regular schedule,” said Mundra.
Mundra continued, “We heard from faculty on both sides, some were like that’s such a better way to sort of end class instead of like a jolt, and other teachers said that they actually like that structure, and we like the signal because sometimes I get lost with what I am talking about and get lost with time. We just decided to try without class bells to see how it would go.”
While the Dean of Studies office has not heard huge opposition against the removal of class bells from faculty, they have made efforts to address possible difficulties from the absence of class bells, such as offering clocks in classrooms to faculty.
“I think where it gets difficult is if faculty don’t end class on time, then I have heard that it makes it more challenging for students to make it to their next class. So, I think that I have heard a couple of just feelings of frustration around that. We have offered to any faculty if they would like to get a clock in their classroom or some sort of reminder when class will end. They can have their own internal alarm in class—they can do that—and a couple of people took us up on that, and did get clocks,” said Mundra.
Some faculty have shown positive reactions to the withdrawal of class bells, as they have often disrupted the flow of class discussions and prompted students to start packing up. They have stated that the removal of class bells has allowed for a more respectful ending of classes, according to Mundra.
“I have also heard of faculty saying that it’s nice not to have bells, it’s just kind of a smoother way to end class, especially if somebody is in the middle of a discussion, or making a point. I think in the past when the bell rang, even if there was a discussion going on, people would start to put their bookbag on and stuff like that because they knew it was the end,” said Mundra.
Patrick Reilly, Instructor in English, also found that class bells are disruptive and agreed with the change. Reilly reported feeling confident in managing class time even without class bells.
“They’re kind of loud, too much noise to direct where I’m going… I feel pretty confident in managing time [without the class bells],” said Reilly.
Other teachers, such as Elizabeth Meyer, Instructor in Classics and Chair in World Languages, gave neutral opinions regarding class bells, with no particular preference. Unaware of the reason behind the decision at the time of the interview, Meyer believed she did not have sufficient information to have a defined position.
“Class bells sometimes interrupted class. This year, my phone alarm interrupts class about as often as the bells did… I don’t understand the decision, so I don’t feel I have enough information to agree or disagree,” said Meyer.
Angela Chen ’23 also felt indifferent towards the change, but was initially surprised about the removal of class bells.
“To be honest, I guess I’m a little bit surprised that the bells are being removed because classrooms usually have bells… I don’t have an opinion on class bells. I think they were helpful because they reminded us when class starts but I didn’t see the point of why they would get rid of it. Usually, I would be going to a different class in a different building, and you wouldn’t be able to hear the bells outside when you’re walking to class anyway,” said Chen.
Nolan Goldthwaite ’22 believed that class bells do not have a large impact on the duration of classes and preferred the absence of bells.
“Honestly, I think teachers are going to hold class over a bell or not no matter what. I had times where a bell would ring and the teacher would say ‘Hey, give me a couple more minutes’ and you stay because you’re not going to leave your teacher. But now, because there is no bell, there is no hard interruption in the class so you don’t realize the teacher is going over and you stay more engaged. You’re not packing your bag while they’re going over something that might be important. So yes, I think without bells is better,” said Goldthwaite.
John Latham ’23 shared a similar sentiment as Goldthwaite and believed class bells were unnecessary. Latham also felt that class bells created a slightly more stressful atmosphere, with its contrast of free time and class time.
“The bells were a little unnecessary because people, for the most part, either had a good concept of when their classes were or knew their time frames for how long a class would be, so they didn’t really need the bells because of their phones… I think the anticipation of the start of class was a little stressful with the bell—just a little bit, because it sharply contrasts the difference between free time and class time, while it’s more of a merge now. It’s more of the teacher’s responsibility to merge the class into a learning environment, rather than free time,” said Latham.