The Division Free Bell |
student in media lab

The Division Free Bell

What is that bell in the library portico that students ring when they have finally passed their Division III?

When alumn Jonathan Frank (76F) passed his Div III after much travail, he felt that the college needed a way for students to celebrate such a momentous event. After graduation, he found an old brass bell (formerly belonging to a ship named the Olinda), and donated it to the college in 1981 with the request that it be hung outside the library and rung to celebrate the passing of divisional exams. After some fundraising and installation, the bell was first rung in 1982.

Although the terms of the gift do not specify that it be rung only for passing Div III, over the years a distinct mythology has grown up around the bell. There is now a strong belief that it is extremely unlucky to ring the Div Free Bell before you have passed your Div III; some even say that if you do, you will never ring it for Div III at all (that is, you will not graduate). At first the bell was kept locked, and the key could be checked out from Central Records when a student submitted the necessary paperwork, but the superstition is now so strong that this control is not needed.

Often, a bell-ringing is now a major celebration, complete with invitations and champagne. And so it should be: passing a Division III exam at Hampshire is major accomplishment. When you hear it ring, think of all the work involved in making it through the often labyrinthine academic system of Hampshire, and wish the happy student success beginning life after Hampshire.

In 2003, the original bell developed a crack which limited its peal to a dull thud. A fund was created to support its replacement, and the bell was replaced with a newer, larger one in April 2004. So the tradition continues!

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