LC in History: Clothespin Confusion

Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr., LC History Professor~

Last week, I received an e-mail from the registrar’s office that one of my advisees had made another change in their class schedule. I gave my assent without even talking with the student; we corresponded via e-mail. Soon the schedule for next year will be provided to everyone. Then all I must do is send a code to each advisee, and they perform the rest. If anyone has a problem I am available to give advice. Needless to say, I am grateful that the old system of pre-registration and final registration no longer exists.

Pre-registration and the actual registration process occurred twice a year; the former was an act of faith and the latter was like roulette in Las Vegas! The process of making the schedule was the duty of the registrar, Miss Blanche Latham. The name of each class to be offered the next semester, the professor who would be teaching it and the classroom in which it would be taught were printed on a three-by-five card. There were five, long boards, one for each day of the academic week with clothespins representing each hour of the class day mounted on them.  Miss Latham would slip the class cards under the clothespins and thus create a master schedule that her secretary would reproduce in written form.

Toward the end of each semester, students were required to consult with their adviser about the next semester’s schedule. Once classes had been selected a schedule card was completed and signed by the adviser.  This was hand-delivered to the registrar’s office.  Then you waited and hoped for the best.  If you were a first year or a sophomore and wanted to take an upper level course you could usually forget it – unless you knew the professor and they were willing to let you in the class. Even then, Miss Latham could cancel “the contract” if she chose to do so – and she often did. Sometimes Dean Turner would override her veto, but not customarily.

The actual registration process took place in Memorial Gym, now the Hall Campus Center Ballroom.  Students arrived to register based on class rank, beginning with the seniors. You collected your tentative schedule at the door, and then you collected your class cards from each professor under whom you would study that semester – and they were all there seated at tables around the wall. If you were a first year or a sophomore – or even a junior – and all the class cards were gone, you were out of luck even if the class was on your tentative schedule. Then the fun began. You had to find something – anything – at the right time. Students traded class cards with each other trying to complete a schedule. When you finally had assembled the proper number of classes without conflicts or duplications, you turned in the whole mess to one of the students working for Miss Latham.  Somehow it all worked, but I have never discovered how.  I guess it was the clothespins.

Standing outside the gym waiting for your turn to enter was no fun either, particularly in late January when it might be raining or snowing.  It was always cold in any case.  You were not allowed to linger inside the gym once you had your cards. When I graduated in 1962 and went to the University of Virginia for graduate study, I was dismayed to learn that their system was similar to the one at LC. Then someone discovered that the computer was made for registration. Be grateful; I am!