Thursday, October 17

Throwback Thursday: The ordeal of registering for classes in the days before MyUCLA


(Daily Bruin archives)

(Daily Bruin archives)


The last time I sat in a chair for two hours waiting for my name to be called was at my middle school graduation. But for UCLA students 35 years ago, that was a regular occasion when signing up for classes.

According to a Daily Bruin news article published Sept. 22, 1981, UCLA students used to wait in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom during what was called registration week – most likely what we now enjoy as zero week. And as the name suggests, they did so to register for their classes on campus.

That’s right: no MyUCLA, no Class Planner, no way to slip in a history class to fulfill that major requirement on your phone. It was all in person.

In fact, there was just one computer – referred to as “the computer” – in Ackerman Union that students waited to use in order to sign up for their classes. Only 26 terminals were available at a time for students to access its enrollment resources – a bottleneck caused by lack of funding to create new terminals and hire operators. According to then-Associate Registrar Anita Cotter, “Visiting the computer in Ackerman Union to adjust classes (took) up to two hours, with the longest lines in the early afternoon.”

In addition, Cotter noted that more than 2,000 students went to “the computer” every day of “reg week” – short for registration week – during the fall of 1980. Students had to get printouts of their schedules before leaving the registration computer room, as they were only permitted one visit to “the computer” during reg week.

Not only that, students had to come prepared when summoned from their Grand Ballroom chairs. Without a registration card and ID, which students also had to wait in line for, they would not be allowed to enroll at the available terminal. In the words of the Bruin’s then-city news editor, “Without (the) two cards, student services (were) as inaccessible as Aladdin’s (cave) without the code words ‘open sesame.’”

Fortunately, members of the registrar office of 1981 made a drastic change to improve the slogging registration process: They decided to close the reg week enrollment at 5 p.m. everyday, as opposed to 3:30 pm. That’s right: They pushed back the daily enrollment time by a whopping 90 minutes.

Of course, other more apparent efforts were made to address the reg week lines. For example, Aaron Katz, one of the then-undergraduate student government general representatives, pushed to allow students to leave the ballroom after receiving their priority numbers, or place in line. Unfortunately, that condition only applied to students seeking “the computer’s” council during the first and second week of classes – reg week enrollment-seekers still had to wait inside the Ackerman ballroom to hold their places.

On the other hand, the biggest enrollment issue now seems to be when an endless loading icon plasters itself onto the “Class Planner” webpage. Of course, we students still have to take the occasional walk down to Murphy Hall to fix enrollment problems, but we rarely have to wait hours to get access to an enrollment resource .

Instead, our own “terminals” – phones, tablets, laptops – tend to do the trick.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit
Senior staff columnist

Tadimeti was the Daily Bruin's Opinion editor from 2017-2019 and an assistant Opinion editor in the 2016-2017 school year. He tends to write about issues pertaining to the higher education, state politics and the administration, and blogs occasionally about computer science. Tadimeti was also the executive producer of the "No Offense, But" and "In the Know" Daily Bruin Opinion podcasts.


Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Carl Yuan

    I am a Bruin alumni who worked as a student terminal operator back in the 80s. We had a great crew working under Anita and Dan M. to help move the students through the Grand Ballroom quickly. It’s amazing looking back at the amount of work we did to get students into their classes, and the technology today to make it happen.