“Just another Baylor Tradition–Unsynchronized Campus Clocks”

This post was written by Sylvia Hernandez, Archivist at the Texas Collection. Sylvia was a student at Baylor from 2004-2008 and remembers having to cross campus in under 10 minutes. The 15 minute pass period was implemented the semester after she graduated. It is now to her delight that she continues to experience the Baylor Time Zones and hears the out of sync bells regularly.

Time has a funny way of influencing an environment. As we begin daylight savings time, I’m sure many would agree. But what about on campus? How does time affect the way we move and plan for classes? Does having an accurate timepiece influence how fast we travel? Since 1929, the Lariat has documented the peculiarities of time on campus. While it is a well-known quirk, I think we only notice its trouble once every decade or so, except in the 1970s, it was a problem every other year then. When it is noticed, changes are suggested and occasionally they stick.

1965 Student Letter to the Editor wondering about the bells on Pat Nef Hall.

One of the first references to off-time drama is the ringing of bells to signal the beginning and end of classes. Sure, this was an accurate way of dismissing classes at one time, but the inconsistencies of the bell-ringer and the manual bell eventually became a problem. In 1930 an electric bell system was used, fell out of favor at some point, and was reintroduced in 1979 and again 2008. Buildings with these systems included Hankamer/Cashion, Baylor Sciences Building (BSB), Sid Richardson, and Carroll Science. In both 1979 and 2008 the bells were dismissed as being too reminiscent of a high school environment. As if that didn’t cause enough personal trauma, they were also disruptive within other areas. It was found that the bells regularly disrupted activity within faculty and staff offices and caused distress to animals in lab spaces. There were efforts to selectively silence the tones, but because they were integrated into the campus emergency alert system this was not possible and for a third time the chimes were abandoned.

Maybe a clock in every classroom could be of benefit. It’s not for lack of trying, but that has been mentioned more than once in the history of the great time saga that permeates our halls.  In 1969, a student suggested implementing clocks in all spaces connected via a computer system. Not a bad position to take, but most likely not cost effective at the time. However, in 1979 there is evidence of rooms within individual buildings being in sync, that is until the electricity went out. When that happened, the maintenance crew had to go and reset each clock individually. A committee tried again in 2007, this time in hopes of having atomic clocks in every classroom, that would solve the reset issue. To no avail, it was in fact too expensive this time for implementation.

Well, why not have one clock on campus be “The Clock.” It was not going to be the one on top of Draper, head of campus maintenance said it should not have been put in as it was never on time. Pat Neff would make sense, but the Lariat makes it seem as if the bells were busted during the 1960s. They work at present, but if you listen close enough, they are not in sync with other large clocks on campus such as the ones at Truett and BSB. This issue could be one of the continuing reasons for campus time zones.

1972 Independent findings of Lariat Staff and how clocks across campus compared to each other and SRT, Standard Radio Time.

Early in its history, campus only extended from 5th street to 8th street and Dutton to Speight. Within those boundaries, and even a few buildings, time faced issues. The issues helped cause the affectionately named Baylor Time Zones. The few minutes off from one side of the Student Union Building (SUB) to the other often influenced whether one could stop and chat between classes.  These inconsistencies also existed within Russell Dormitory. A 1972 article was helpful for those looking to beat curfew, the clock in North Russel was slow while the one in South was fast. A young woman could gain up to four minutes of extra time with her beau just by entering the right door.

As campus grew, so did the time zones. By 1978 there was mention of extending pass periods between class. Travel from Hankamer to Russell Gym or Castellaw to Tidwell became increasingly difficult to travel in only 10 minutes. Students began incorporating bicycles into their travel plans as it would increase the likelihood of making it to class on time between the inconsistent clocks, continually growing campus, and professors going long in their classes. For thirty years students faced this dilemma.

In 2004, the Baylor Sciences Building opened and students began receiving more tardies as they tried to travel from the farthest reaches of campus to their next class. This was a continuing problem and both students and teachers were not happy as there were formal complaints lobbied into 2006 without much thought. By 2007 a task force was formed to document the phenomena and provide suggestions for improvement. In Summer 2008,administration finally implemented a 15-minute pass period. The extended time allowance helped decrease student tardiness and eased the mind of faculty.

Since then, there have not been too may quirks, but other than computers, classes are far from having a synchronized clock system. Even now, the time zones continue as Pat Neff chimes only to be followed a minute later by one of the other large clocks. In 1930, the Lariat printed “It is going to be a happy day if an adequate system of bells, chimes, whistles, buzzer, or what-nots is ever installed at Baylor.” Who knew, over 90 years later, that “keeping up with clocks on campus [would be] a problem for years and years. Maybe Forever.”


The following Lariat articles can be found online in our Digital Collections

“About Bells.” 1930 December 19.

“Baylor Campus Clocks ‘Can’t Get Together’.” 1930 January 16.

Frost, Jimmy. “Students Wonder About Chimes.” 1965 November 4.

Grigsby, Sharon. “Jogging shoes just won’t help.” 1978 February 14.

“Large Campus Clock Might Replace Bells.” 1929 February 2.

Ledbetter, Robette. “Campus clocks unsynchronized.”  1979 January 25.

MacEwan, Molly. “Tones get axed in buildings.” 2008 November 19.

McCollum, David. “Campus Clocks Embezzle our Time.” 1969 March 6.

McCollum, David. “Some Timely Advice.” March 10, 1972

Morton, Janetta. “Letter to the Editor.” 1975, October 9.

Pere, Anita. “15-minute intervals to ease rush.” September 25, 2007.


  • marygoolsby

    April 5, 2022 at 9:24 am Reply

    Sylvia, this is a fun and well-researcher piece. Thanks for reminding me of what it was like as a student dealing with the bells.

  • kj_mikulencak

    April 5, 2022 at 2:59 pm Reply

    That was a fun article! Loved reading this – thank you, Sylvia!

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