Can the Cornell Chimes reduce their concerts during study breaks?

Date: May 2018


Dear Ask a Dean,

I am writing in relation to Cornell Chimes and the thrice daily ‘concerts’ performed from McGraw clocktower. More specifically, I’m emailing to ask if it is entirely necessary that such concerts take place every day and for such prolonged amounts of time. I recognize that this email will read, at worst, as some kind of joke or, at best, some kind of curmudgeonly venting of my spleen. I hope, though, that you’ll hear (read?) me out.

The chimes themselves are scheduled to run for 15 minutes (although often run something closer to 20 minutes) and do so directly over two of our busiest libraries on campus. This is a site where many of us Cornell students (undergraduate or, like myself, graduate) go for quiet study – which is to say, to study away from such noises as 21 clocktower bells chiming Here Comes the SunThe Cornell Alma Mater, or (most ironically) Sounds of Silence. My question to you, as Dean, is whether it would be possible for midday chimes to cut back slightly during study periods, examination periods, and Saturdays, such that we might – as students and scholars – be left to do some scholarly work in peace.

Kind regards and sending to know,

For Whom the Bell Takes a Toll.


Dear For Whom the Bell Takes a Toll,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean question. I understand that this time of year, at the end of the semester during exams, is particularly stressful for students, graduate/professional and undergraduate, and libraries often provide the quietest places to study.

To accommodate students’ study needs, the Cornell Chimes play a reduced daily concert schedule during Cornell’s study period and final exams (e.g., May 11-22 this year). Rather than the usual three concert sessions each day (7:45-8:00 a.m.; 1:10-1:25 p.m.; 6:00-6:15 p.m.), the Chimes play only once or twice a day (12:00-12:15 p.m. and/or 6:00-6:15 p.m.). 

While some students look forward to the break provided by the Chimes concerts, others, as you’ve noted, find them to be a distraction that takes away productive study time. I’ll share your concern with the office responsible for Cornell Chimes (through Student and Campus Life) and with the director of Cornell’s libraries, so that they can consider your suggestions. 

I hope the semester concluded productively and positively for you and you are looking forward to summer.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School