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OPINION: Why Belmont should change the lighting of the bell tower

Imagine you are walking alone at night. Crickets are chirping, lightning bugs are in the air, and in the bushes you hear the faint pitter-patter of Frank the Possum making his nightly rounds. All around you, magnificent Italianate buildings, dressed in white beams of light stretch towards the black, Nashville sky.

Just then, in the distance, you spot it.

Towering into the air and spraying out blood-red light, the Belmont bell tower cuts into the night sky like a scar. Terrified, you race back to your dorm.

To put it lightly, Belmont has an aesthetic problem – a problem in the form of a 100-foot-tall tower of terror/historic bell tower.

First of all, I do understand to a certain extent why red light was chosen to light the tower. It’s one of Belmont’s three primary colors, and obviously they had to choose one of those. But did anyone making that decision ever think about how terrifying a red, 100-foot bell tower would look? Why not go with the less intimidating, and universally-cherished blue? It would be like having a giant emergency light in the center of campus. Everyone would feel instantly safer. Or maybe even match every other building on campus and light it in white? It’s proven to be aesthetically pleasing.

The point is, when I walk back from the library after a long night of studying, I don’t want to feel like the Eye of Sauron is watching me to make sure I don’t step on the grass.

Not to mention, red is just a gaudy and loud color. When the rest of the campus is beautifully bathed in nothing but white light, the bell tower just looks so tacky and out of place.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things around campus that I think would work in red light. The fountain in front of McWhorter, for instance, is one-third red, and looks great. Even if the higher-ups had decided to make the fountain completely red, I think it still would have worked, but because it’s a fountain, and not a campus landmark.

And it’s not just about aesthetics – it’s also about respectfully preserving history. The bell tower has been around since 1850, which is over a decade before the Civil War for all you history buffs, and a really long time ago for the rest of you. This is a landmark that was built during a time when our country had only 30 states, and we’ve decided to cover it in hideous red light because “Go Bruins!”

Is Independence Hall in Philadelphia lit up green for the Eagles? Of course not, it’s lit up in white. Occasionally, Independence Hall will be lit in red, white and blue, but seeing as the building was the birthplace of the United States, it seems acceptable that they show a little team spirit every now and then.

At the end of the day it just makes me wonder – why at a school that so obviously cares about keeping its campus looking absolutely immaculate and stunning have we allowed this towering red monstrosity to exist? I think it’s important for us to realize that it doesn’t have to.

While it may not matter, since the bell tower will probably get bulldozed to make room for more dorms in 20 years, I am imploring the powers-that-be at Belmont to change the lighting on the bell tower. It is entirely possible, and in my humble opinion, will make Belmont a truly beautiful place to live.

Article and photo by Zach Gilchriest.

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