Chapel bells ring in new tune with alma mater; some chide at sound

There’s a new and unfamiliar sound of spring for students walking across campus or studying in Eads at noon: the school’s alma mater.

Starting earlier this month, Graham Chapel rang out not its usual noon tune, but the school’s alma mater for its full two minutes every day.

The song, which is German in origin, is rarely used on campus. It is only sung for special occasions. Most students don’t recognize the song or even know it exists.

But freshman Michael Byrne is trying to change that. A Student Union senator, Byrne was bothered by the lack of school spirit at Washington University, as compared to his family’s experiences at schools like Notre Dame and University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“I noticed when I came to Wash. U. that we were lacking in tradition compared to other schools,” Byrne said. “Looking at schools like Northwestern and Cornell, they use their alma mater more frequently than Wash. U. and have a stronger sense of tradition.”

Some students find the bells less than endearing.

“They chime all the time and it’s annoying,” sophomore Brooke Yarrows said.

Although the bells are audible in nearby buildings like Eads and on campus itself, many students haven’t noticed the new tune, though support the general idea of playing it.

“I think it’s nice,” freshman Kara Golebiowski said.

“I can’t imagine professors like it, but I haven’t heard it so it can’t be much of a distraction” sophomore Michael Ellenberger said.

Byrne says he wanted to infuse the song into everyday life in a noninvasive way and didn’t want to make people memorize it. He hopes that playing the song will be the beginning of a larger project to bring more tradition to the University.

The alma mater will only play for one minute, not its usual two, during finals week.

The song is the second change to come to Graham Chapel this school year. In the fall, the frequency of the Graham Chapel bell chimes increased from playing every hour to every 15 minutes.

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