Why is the El Pomar Center clock tower ringing?

The clock tower’s bell chime — or carillon — was turned off in the midst of April 2020 during the COVID shut down, but after four years, it has been reinstated. New students and faculty say it’s a surprise that the clock tower can ring at all.

“When I first heard the clock, I asked my friends if it always rang. I thought I had somehow not heard it the whole time I’ve gone to UCCS,” digital media B.I. sophomore Erick Rodriguez said.

Harper Johnson, Chief Information Officer of IT at UCCS, was recently approached by SGA to start the clock’s carillon ringing again. SGA found that there is a student demand for the return of the quarter hour chimes.

When Johnson was approached by SGA, he first had to find someone who could get the carillon to work. The clock tower was installed in 2001 when the El Pomar Center was opened, but there were no instructions that accompanied it. In the search for someone who could figure out the outdated system, Johnson and the IT team found OIT Director of Operations Greg Williams.

“It’s an old system. They’re really just on or off,” Johnson said. “It runs on a little cassette tape. There’s no inner programming, so you’re stuck with what you have.”

The IT team got the carillon working again on Feb. 19. The digital carillon is an electronic system which plays traditional bell tones. However, after a brief return, the chime has since stopped ringing this past week.

“We weren’t sure if it was going to work or not. And apparently, it’s not right now, so Greg’s going to be back on campus,” Johnson said.

“The last quote to fix it was $80,000, so we were just hoping it would turn on and work. Which it did for a few weeks,” Johnson said. He added that the carillon may have been bumped, or the circuit may have tripped during the IT’s weekly test of the generators on campus.

When it works, the carillon coordinates with the time on the clock every 15 minutes. This frequency brought complaints from students who preferred the carillon’s silence.

“It is supposed to ring the traditional jingle on the hour, and then it chimes the hour. Then it does a little chime on 15 minutes. It chimes at half-hour then it plays a song at 36 minutes past the hour. Then it does another chime at 45 minutes,” Johnson said. “That’s fairly traditional … The weird part is the song that plays at 36 minutes. I think it only does it in the afternoon.”

The chiming can be heard all the way down by the ENT Center. “There’s three volume settings, but the only one that works is the loudest one,” Johnson said.

Johnson said updating the carillon “depends on funding.”

“It was a gift,” he said. “We’ve never had funding to maintain it, and it’s kind of a specialty thing. I guess if the campus made it a priority to replace it or upgrade it, we would do it.”

SGA has been working diligently to get campus back to how it was before COVID because of student demand. They have considered recruiting computer science students to help with the carillon. Johnson hopes to restore the carillon to bring the nostalgic chimes of the clock back to UCCS that are fondly adored.

The clock tower. Photo by Meghan Germain.