Wednesday, February 4, 1998
‘Midnight Yell’ harmless stress reliever for Bruins
FINALS: Heavy-duty studying can be exhausting; tradition helps
many keep their sanity
By Brent Hopkins
Stashed away in my little lair, with a stolen CD and a big fuzzy
hat to inspire me, I begin my little column. What injustice shall I
rage against? Well, my friends and comrades in the great academic
war, I have carefully selected a topic that is one of the most
heinously pressing and controversial issues of our times. One that
divides brother from brother, mother from daughter, and cousin from
vague acquaintance in math class. You all know what I’m talking
OK, for those of you who continued reading rather than thinking,
"This guy’s obviously a freak, I’ll read the want ads instead,"
this issue that is burning inside of me is FINALS YELL. There, I
said it. I’m sorry if this topic is a bit too hard to handle, but I
feel that the public must know. This affects not only students on
campus, but anyone who has ever made a loud noise. Hopefully, that
includes a couple of you out there, or I’m just a big geek with too
much free time.
I’m not exactly a hardened veteran of UCLA, but I have seen some
nifty things here in my first quarter. One that I liked was the
Midnight Yell during finals week. You’re studying, getting nervous,
chewing your pencils and desperately trying to squeeze every
possible tiny piece of knowledge you can out of a marked-up
textbook. You look around the lounge; you see 10 others just like
yourself. Stomachs churning, they grind out page after page of
catch-up notes, and a feeling of stagnation has set in the air, so
no one can progress; everyone merely sitting there staring at
already written notes that make about as much sense as the UC
Regents’ billing schemes.
Off in the distance, a cry pierces the haze. Then another, then
three more, and before long, the whole dorm is roaring. Spirits are
lifted, looks of worry disappear in favor of slight smiles, and
work progresses. Thoughts can begin again, but instead of your
books, the thing grabbing your attention is the CSO with the
clipboard, barking out orders for you to write down your name.
You’ve just been caught for disturbing quiet hours.
I have one question: Why? A couple of people are yelling. So
what? Are they knocking on doors, setting off the fire alarm or
lighting fires in trash cans? No, they’re just blowing off a little
steam, trying to unscramble their brains. When I hear every loser
with their dad’s Porsche trying to peel out every argument and
every Biggie Smalls song at full volume out of someone’s trunk, I
don’t complain to the university, I just accept it as part of
Case in point – last quarter, I was having a killer dream. I was
livin’ it up, a la James Bond, with the pretty girls, fast cars and
cool clothes. I was The Man. Just as things were getting
interesting, with the final showdown with the villain about to
happen, I heard loud, groaning noises. They were coming from my
ceiling, I realized. Apparently, the girls above me picked 8:00 on
a Saturday morning to shove their desks around and redo their room.
I got jacked for my dream! I had been robbed! No cunning stunts, no
gunplay, no beautiful women, just noise and a cold morning to greet
These people disturbed me. They disturbed me during quiet hours.
They disturbed me in the middle of a James Bond dream. Sounds to me
like that’s grounds to have them written up. But I didn’t complain.
Why? Because it’s not a big deal! They can’t be expected to sit
around and wait for my convenience to live their lives. I get woken
up by people all the time, but I know that’s just how life works.
It’s pretty arrogant to think that my sleeping habits are more
important than anything else.
As for the Midnight Yell, every time I heard it, it never lasted
for more than half a minute, and it was quieter than most of the
noise that just naturally occurs around then. I heard yells about
the rottenness of finals, the impending vacation, boring
professors, and, bizarrely enough, a male/female rendition of the
Sound Of Music coming from my stairwell.
There was something else, though, more important: Students were
gaining peace of mind. For an instant, addled minds were free of
worry. It lightened the atmosphere and gave people something to
smile about. Sure, the finals are still there, and acting like a
crazed wolf for a little bit isn’t going to make you know the
material any better, but it slices the tension away and brings you
closer to the other students who are in the same boat with you. I
know that sounds a little corny, but I know that when that English
final was hungrily glaring at me, waiting to munch on my GPA, it
was mighty comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one who was
feeling the pressure.
I could look around at my hall-mates, and laugh with them. No
matter what subject they were studying, we could forget it for just
a little bit and be momentarily happy. I certainly had a lot more
fun studying for my finals when there were others there who I could
occasionally joke with. When there are yells breaking out all
throughout the dorms, this little support group extends beyond the
Those still opposed, take comfort. It could get worse, much
worse. At other schools, finals invite even more bizarre behavior.
At West Point, the traditional ice breaker (literally) is The Naked
Man. Yes, some crazed cadet sheds his uniform and streaks across
campus in freezing cold weather. So for those of you who get ticked
at a little noise, at least you don’t have to see naked army dudes
making like Carl Lewis.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to sound like I think
that yelling is some inalienable right. That is one of the most
annoying things I can think of, when people declare that they
deserve ridiculous things, that are most undeserved. I don’t think
it’s my right to trip fire alarms, steal cars or beat people up
whom I don’t agree with. I don’t even think it’s my right to yell
at midnight during finals week.
It’s a privilege, no doubt. Though the university, and those who
choose to complain, are standing on much stronger ground than those
of us who like to make noise, I think it’s a privilege that we
should be allowed. I don’t think it’s asking for all that much,
either. No one (I hope) is asking for the right to blast loud music
at three in the morning, which would be really disturbing.
Hey, maybe I’m just a weirdo. Maybe I don’t belong. Is this an
evil crime? It’s pretty hard to argue that it is. Despite the lack
of severity, a sign posted outside of Hedrick proclaimed that
offending yellers could get 15-40 hours of community service.
What’s up with that? You could probably shoot someone in Los
Angeles and get less jail time. Well, if you were a movie star, at
Now I’m sympathetic to those opposed to the yell. I know that it
might be a little distracting if you’re in the middle of note
review or banging out a last-minute paper. You might have be
sleeping when the yelling yanks you out of your slumber. That’s
pretty crummy, I admit. I can see where you guys are coming
That doesn’t mean I think that punishing the yellers is a good
idea. I have the good fortune to live above the Sproul turnaround,
which generates more noise than a crying baby driving a garbage
truck in a Smashing Pumpkins concert. Sorry for the bad analogy,
but that covered all the bases I could think of. Through my thin,
glass window, I hear every drunken person here. I’m not going to
form a Coalition Recognizing Undergraduates’ Mission for Modern
Yells (CRUMMY for short). No rallies will be held to demand
official support for yelling, partially because only four people
would show up, and also because it’s not that big a deal. This is a
lowly cause on the great social conscience scale, but I still think
Midnight Yell is one of the things that makes college life
special. A friend said to me on the day of said nasty English final
that the things you’ll remember in 30 years aren’t going to be the
questions on the test, but the experiences you had. That is so
incredibly true. It’s a tradition that gives our school character,
and I think it’s a shame to try and mute it.