Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Bell Tower Commons reopens, now with robots

After being closed for years, Bell Tower is set to reopen this year, located in the center of campus, making it a convenient dining hall.
After being closed for years, Bell Tower is set to reopen this year, located in the center of campus, making it a convenient dining hall.

Simon Pfalz remembers when Bell Tower Commons was in its prime.

“Bell was always popping,” the graduate studying health and exercise science said. “On Fridays they had Quesadilla Fridays … [and] they always had chicken nuggets, but they called them chicken chunks and it made them like 20 times better.”

Then, in the fall semester of 2020, Bell closed.

Originally, the dining hall remained open as students returned to Miami University’s campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, it shut down in October to all but the students under remain-in-room restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19. When the number of students under remain-in-room restrictions dropped, Bell closed indefinitely.

Despite student petitions and reports that the dining hall was set to reopen in fall 2021, Bell’s doors have remained closed for the past three years. Now, the centrally located dining option is finally reopening for the Fall 2023 semester.

And not only is Bell reopening: It’s bringing robots to campus.

Amanda Casey, director of dining services, wrote in an email to The Miami Student that the dining hall will serve as a hub for 20 Starship delivery robots — six-wheeled machines that drive around campus delivering food to campus. Similar robots have already debuted on other college campuses like Ohio State University.

The robots will operate 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and will cost students a $3.49 delivery fee. At an Oxford City Council meeting Aug. 8, city manager Doug Elliott said the robots are meant to operate on-campus only.

Although Pfalz is living off-campus, he said he hopes the robots reduce the wait for on-campus students. Bell’s interior is smaller than other dining halls like Maple Street, and he said pickup and delivery options could cut down on wasted time spent in line.

Grace Williams, a sophomore English literature major, is living in Stoddard Hall this year, a quick walk away from Bell. She said she’s looking forward to seeing the robots, which she first heard about on OSU’s campus, and having delivery as an option on days she doesn’t feel like leaving her room.

“I’m really excited to live so close to something that’s been such a popular topic of conversation all the time I’ve been at Miami,” Williams said. “It’s like a fairy tale or something. Everyone’s always like, ‘Bell Tower — that was magical.’”

Bell is set to open at the start of the semester, barring construction delays. The dining hall will feature three “ghost kitchens” — a term used to describe restaurants without traditional storefronts or front-of-house staff. Bell’s kitchens will specialize in southwest, grill and Asian foods, but the menu may change in the future. Students will be able to order their food from the Grubhub app or at a kiosk in the dining hall and pick it up from a locker inside.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Pfalz hopes the Bell Tower classics — Quesadilla Fridays, chicken chunks and “liquid nacho cheese” — will make a comeback.

“The only thing Bell lacked was its pizza, but the pizza is kind of trash everywhere,” Pfalz said. “[Bell] had so much stuff that it was awesome. Those three things were uniquely in Bell, like they’d never make them at other dining halls.”