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Seniors unable to sign Bell Tower during climb express frustrations


UNC seniors exit the Bell Tower during the annual climb, hosted by the UNC General Alumni Association on Monday, April 19. The event is an iconic tradition for graduating seniors at UNC.

After spending hours in line, waiting to climb the Bell Tower and participate in one of UNC’s Senior Week traditions, one student was kicked out before they could reach the top.

While a security guard wasn’t looking, they risked writing their name on the tower among thousands of other UNC seniors and alumni. Right before they could add "Class of ‘23," a guard caught them and escorted them out.

“This is not a new thing that just happened this year," the student, who chose to remain anonymous, said. "This is something that every senior has done in Carolina for years — decades. I think telling students that they can't partake in this tradition is like telling students not to drink water from the Old Well on the first day of class.”

As part of Senior Week for the class of 2023, the UNC General Alumni Association invited all seniors to climb the tower on Wednesday. Climbing the Bell Tower is a tradition where students venture inside the tower and, historically, leave their mark by signing their names. 

However, students were not allowed to leave their signature on the tower this year to preserve the "structural integrity" of the historic building, a message from the GAA said. 

“Signing or marking on building surfaces is generally not permitted under the Facilities Use Policy and Standard,” UNC Media Relations said in a statement. “This tradition has not been endorsed by Facilities Services in the past.” 

On the way up the tower, the student said they saw three or four names of people they knew who went to the tower that day. Many other seniors were signing their names during this UNC tradition, but this student was just one who got caught doing it. 

“I'm sure they want to preserve the building and all that," they said. "I'm sure there are reasons behind it. It's a tough situation, I also get that. But at this point, I'm a senior, I'm ready to get out of here. I've waited my four years, I'm ready to do my tradition.” 

After standing in line for two hours, senior media and journalism major Julia Roth was also looking forward to signing her name on the Bell Tower. 

“I think as seniors, we like the traditions where we feel like a part of us is being left behind on campus and in Chapel Hill,” she said. “It is one of those things that it was just a literal, physical way to stay behind.” 

Some students leave their signature in Chapel Hill bars and restaurants like He’s Not Here, but Roth said there’s something about leaving your mark on such a historic and main central spot on campus. 

“I think also, there's something about tradition, and I think after the pandemic, people are really eager to continue tradition,” she said. “So any changes, even if this unrelated, feel just like things are changing, and no one wants to feel that way more than the changes we're about to face.”

Because of the pandemic, senior economics major Hunter Krupp said he also felt "cheated" out of a full college experience and has had to make the most out of it — including the full senior experience of climbing the Bell Tower.

Krupp also said he doesn’t necessarily believe that the structural integrity will be ruined with student signatures. 

Senior economics major Grace Kluender agreed but said she’s just been grateful to spend this time with her friends. For example, Kluender and Krupp noted their ability to participate in other UNC traditions such as streaking in Davis Library and Bar Golf

Roth and her friends have also participated in her own traditions, which she said makes her feel as if she fulfilled her college experience.

“We almost have done our own version of senior traditions,” Roth said. “I think that there are a lot of things that just by the time you're a senior have started to do, and now they become more special, because it could be the last time.” 


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