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‘Unlucky’ 13--It’s All a Matter of Psychology

Times Staff Writer

Although superstitions of the Dark Ages supposedly have yielded to modern psychology, the number 13 has darkened the mood of some psychology professors and students at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

Over the teachers’ objections, school officials renumbered campus buildings and declared that the psychology classroom complex will from now on be “Building 13.”

Worried psychology staff members protested the change on grounds it will cause confusion and scare away potential students who see a link between an unlucky classroom number and an unlucky class grade.

” . . . The number 13 could affect our enrollment,” Wayne Hren, psychology department chairman, complained to the campus newspaper.

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On Friday, Hren denied that his 17-member staff is superstitious. But he conceded that “some people are afraid of the number 13.” He quickly added that “any learned person knows that a number by itself has no particular significance.’

Some students, however, said they will not press their luck in Building 13.

“I guess I won’t be taking any more psych classes. No, thank you. The number 13 is bad luck,” said sophomore Alicia Richards, 20, a theater tech major.

Freshman Kim Mallonee, 18, was also leery. “Even though I’m a psychology major and shouldn’t believe in the ethics of superstition, I don’t like it,” she said. “I think lots of students will stay home on Friday the 13th. . . . They’ll freak out on that date.”

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College officials said a private consulting firm recommended the new numbering system for buildings and classrooms. A confusing combination of letters and numbers now identifies facilities on Pierce’s rambling, 400-acre campus.

Updated campus maps and fall semester schedules featuring the new numbers went to the printer on Friday, said William Norlund, a college vice president.

“The psychology department basically wanted to skip the number 13,” Norlund said. “Maybe they’ll have a lower enrollment on Friday the 13th. But the department called our attention to it too late.”

Others said they doubt that the number will worry most psychology students--who know the fear of the number 13 by its psychology textbook name: triskaidekaphobia.

Computer science department Chairman James B. Reidy Jr. said his classroom building was designated number 13 on the old campus maps and “it has not caused a single problem in the 13 years I’ve been here.”

Reidy, who also serves as president of the Pierce faculty senate, said Hren told a committee meeting that the psychology staff does not like its building’s new number. “I can’t believe people in psychology are superstitious,” he said. ". . . I can’t believe this is happening in a collegiate atmosphere.”

Sophomore psychology student Samy Parsa offered a solution to the dispute.

“They should make the biology classroom building number 13,” he said. “That’s where I get my worst grades. That’s the unlucky building at this college.”

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