Miami University dining officials confirmed that Bell Tower Commons will be reopening for the fall semester.
The decision, which comes nearly six months after the Bell’s indefinite closing, was made due to the lack of COVID-19 cases on campus, as well as the influx of on-campus students for next semester following the return of remote students.
Bell initially closed in October 2020, reporting that the dining hall no longer drew in enough students to justify remaining open. Prior to closing, Bell Tower had been designated for remain-in-room students only, closing to the rest of the student body.
Geno Svec, executive director of Campus Services, wrote in an email to The Miami Student that he believes a return to normal operations next semester will allow Bell to remain open permanently.
“We originally closed Bell Tower because it was the least used dining hall on campus,” Svec wrote. “We chose to keep it closed because we didn’t know what the spring semester was going to look like.”
Following the closure of Bell in October, first-year political science major Ethan Chiapelli created a petition calling on the university to reopen the dining hall. Currently, the petition has 237 signatures.
“[Bell Tower] is the only good dining hall on campus,” Chiapelli wrote in the petition’s description. “Closing it was a mistake.”
Though aware of student backlash to closing Bell, Svec chose to move forward with his decision regardless.
“We did hear from some students who were not in favor of Bell Tower closing,” Svec said. “But we believe that the students understand the need and reason as to why we kept Bell Tower closed.”
Not all students agree Bell was the right dining hall to close. Will Butler, a sophomore engineering management major living on Academic Quad, believes the university should have closed a different dining hall first.
“The university definitely didn’t make the right call in closing Bell,” Butler said. “With the relative closeness of Martin and Garden, it would have been much less impactful on students living on the quads represented by those dining halls if one or the other was too close.”
With his closest dining option closed, Butler instead goes to Maplestreet Commons and Garden Commons, both of which are significantly farther walks.
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“I use my meal plan swipes way less, since it’s more convenient to walk to Armstrong than a dining hall,” Butler said. “Which isn’t good, since I pay the university for those meal swipes, and a ton of them go to waste.”
While Butler understands the university’s decision to close a dining hall, he doesn’t agree that the university considered all the factors at play in removing a major dining option for students.
“The argument can be made that students can use the dining locations in Armstrong, but those use declining balance dollars,” Butler said. “When you’re spending upwards of five dollars on a ham and cheese sandwich, these locations rapidly deplete the declining dollars of students with meal plans that don’t include a high balance.”
Conor O’Loughlin, a first-year computer science major living on North Quad, agreed the closure of Bell Tower made little sense logistically.
“It just doesn’t make sense that they would choose to close a dining hall in such a prominent location,” O’Loughlin said. “I have two dining halls within a quarter mile of my dorm, both of which are used by mainly first years. So why would they close the one dining hall in the middle of campus?”
O’Loughlin believes that the quality of food at Bell, combined with the variety of options, should have factored into the university’s decision on which dining hall to close.
“It’s by far the best dining hall on campus,” O’Loughlin said. “It’s good that they’re bringing it back for the fall, but it never should have closed in the first place.”