A Day in the Life of a College Student From The 80’s

Get in losers, we’re going back to the 80’s! In honor of the Union’s 70th Anniversary, we’re traveling through time to examine what campus and the world was like throughout our history. So put on your acid wash jeans, roll up those blazer sleeves, and hop in our DeLorean as we go back to the era of the Cold War and synthesizers.

Campus Happenings

The 1980’s in Denton were a fun time. We still had a large eagle mascot roaming these mean green streets, but then, they were known as Eppy.

NTSU alum the Von Erichs were on the rise in the professional wrestling circuits of the 1980’s, while another future WWE Superstar named Steven Anderson was on a football scholarship at UNT from 1986-1987 before he would go on to “stun” the world of sports entertainment as Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The 1980’s brought an enrollment of more than 20,000 students to campus and an increased push towards significant graduate programs and research initiatives. These changes earned us yet another name change, a total of seven if you’ve been keeping score. On University Day, May 15, 1988, we officially became University of North Texas. UNT leaders also buried a time capsule that same day and opened recently in 2015.

It’s officially University of North Texas season.

The University Union

Interest in the Union grew as the Diamond Eagle Suite was opened for reservation. The Grill and The Campus Chat food areas remained opened later to better accommodate evening students. The courtyard also offered a space for students to gather and even perform.

Not a cellphone in sight.

Rock Bottom Lounge was still going strong–featuring new wave music, DJ nights, and a “Club RBL” night to capture the feel of other new music clubs in the DFW area like Club Da-Da. The RBL also hosted both local and national stand up comics. One change to the RBL policy though, no drinking to students under 19 years of age after 8pm.

Union Fest, then known as Union Day, was getting its start. It is an annual celebration to commemorate the opening of the Union in 1976, and it has evolved as a celebration of student life and the impact the Union facility had on the campus. One thing has always remained the same, lots of free food and activities for the UNT Community.

Much like today, UPC was still putting on great events for students to attend including movies, performances, workshops, and even gigantic ice cream sundae parties.

Getting Ready

After Class

You might have opted to stay in the Union and check out the Syndicate, home to billiards tables for impromptu games or large scale tournaments. It was also home to an arcade area full of pinball machines, and as technology advanced, arcade cabinets.

Or perhaps a quick stroll through the Union’s Art Gallery featuring work from fellow UNT students. You never know what may inspire you or brighten your day.

Fry Street Fair began in the early 1980s. Annual event for students and the community to come together. The fair started as a fraternity event to give back to the community and was held until 2007. Provided a great opportunity to feature local and regional band and was a huge boost to the local businesses.

The Flying Tomato during the Fry Street Fair

If you weren’t sure what to wear, maybe you’d check out the annual ArtWear show, an annual juried fashion exhibition show that we have hosted in the Union in recent years. 1983 was a particularly special one, twirl away:

Music & Movies

The music industry was exploding to new heights during this decade. The 1980’s featured an explosion of pop music and new wave. Synthesizer-heavy sounds sort of defined the era, but it was much more robust than that. The decade also saw the birth of hip-hop to the mainstream, the bubbling underground punk scene, as well as the short reign of hair metal.

Slasher films, teen comedies, action films, the future, John Hughes & The Bratpack, all encapsulated the rebellious nature of teenagers at the time and their dreams and hopes for a better tomorrow after the tumultuous times of the previous decade.

Based on their domestic earnings (unadjusted) here are the top 10 films of the decade.

  1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), $435 million
  2. Return of the Jedi (1983), $309 million
  3. The Empire Strikes Back (1980), $290 million
  4. Batman (1989), $251 million
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), $245 million
  6. Ghostbusters (1984), $238 million
  7. Beverly Hills Cop (1984), $234 million
  8. Back to the Future (1985), $210 million
  9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), $197 million
  10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), $179

    Honorable mentions: The Terminator (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Aliens (1986), Die Hard (1988), The Princess Bride (1987), Gremlins (1984), Bladerunner (1982), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Full Metal Jacket (1987), The Karate Kid (1984), Coming To America (1988), and too many more to mention. What a decade.


Pop culture heavily influenced slang of the era, and vice versa. The rise of the valley girl/surfer dude cliché and

  • Have a cow – being overly excited, making a big deal out of something
  • gnarly – very good or intense
  • grody – really, really gross
  • airhead – unaware person, moron
  • awesome – very, very cool
  • bad – also very good, or awesome
  • like – used before every sentence
  • stoked – to be ready to do something
  • tubular – overwhelming, something very cool
  • yuppie – Young Urban Professional – well educated, career oriented person driven by money
  • wannabe – someone who wants the stature of someone else
  • dis – an act of disrespecting someone
  • what’s your damage? – are you ok? you’re not all there

Cowabunga dudes and dudettes! Join us next time as we venture into the NiNeTieS.