Student opinions on Harkness bells differ, survey says

Harkness bells

Although the sound of the Harkness Tower bells playing songs like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” or the Beatles’ “Let It Be” has become a campus staple, it seems some students are not always thrilled with the music emanating from Branford for at least 90 minutes each day.

A survey on students’ satisfaction with the timing and duration of the music, which is played daily by students in the Guild of Carillonneurs, was emailed to all undergraduates anonymously Monday afternoon and drew over 1,500 responses from students in all residential colleges. According to survey results provided to the News, students rated their enjoyment of the bells at 6.62 out of 10, and students in Branford and Saybrook — the two colleges closest to Harkness Tower — averaged lower ratings of 5.26 and 5.8, respectively. The largest portion of respondents — 27 percent — stated on the survey that 1.5 hours per day is an appropriate length of time for the carillonneurs to play music on the Harkness bells.

The survey was not sent out by the students who play music on the bells, said Guild of Carillonneurs Co-Chair Tiffany Lin ’13, adding that the group “questions the appropriateness of sending an anonymous survey on any topic to the entire student body.” In a Tuesday email to the News, the Branford student responsible for the survey asked to remain anonymous.

When asked which hour of the day the bells would be most appropriate, the largest portion of respondents selected 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Currently, the bells play from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the academic year. Lin said the carillonneurs originally chose the timing and duration of the music to coincide with mealtimes and breaks between classes, adding that the group honors requests to adjust playing times when they interfere with important events near the tower.

The Guild intends to examine and discuss the survey results, “taking into account that the lack of disclosure of the source of the survey gives less credibility to the results of the survey,” Lin said. She added that the carillonneurs receive many positive comments about their work through Facebook and email, adding that the group continues to receive a substantial volume of song requests through its website.

According to raw data provided by the survey creator, students had varied comments about the bells. One student commented that the bells “will define my Yale experience” in a positive way. Another stated that the bells were “unfair” because the Guild is the only student group that has daily performances to which the campus is obligated to listen, adding that the daily concerts would be equivalent to the Whiffenpoofs using a loudspeaker to perform on campus daily.

Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley MPH ’95 GRD ’96 said she has received occasional complaints about the bells from students who feel they are too loud to allow for conversation or listening to music in their rooms.

Two Branford students interviewed said they do not always enjoy the bells and find them distracting because they live below Harkness Tower.

“The only time I appreciate it is when friends or family come and it’s nice, but I wish it wasn’t a day to day thing,” Santiago Sanchez ’15 said.

The Guild of Carillonneurs was founded in 1949.

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