Students walking to class Tuesday noticed a four-story-tall black banner draped over the side of the Student Union and emblazoned with the golden Skull and Dagger symbol. It's that time of year again, when new members of the "secret" society participate in an informal initiation ritual by pulling a prank on the student body and dressing up in black tailcoats and odd hats.
This year's prank, however, was less than impressive. The Tommy Cam, a 24/7 camera mounted atop the Student Union building and pointing in the direction of Tommy Trojan, caught members setting up several inflatable air dancers on Trousdale and against the wall of the Student Union between 8:30 and 8:40 a.m. The meaning and reasoning behind today's prank is unclear, but it clearly does not live up to the scale and elaborate nature of the pranks of years past. From mildly humorous to impressively disruptive, here are some of Skull and Dagger's most notorious pranks:
9. Free Food (2010)
There are few things a college student likes better than free food. When it was announced that The Lot would hold a "Student Appreciation Day" complete with free food, many students showed up just to be disappointed when it was revealed to be a hoax. According to a USC Hospitality official, however, the prank negatively impacted business and service for USC Hospitality. This was the first of a few Skull and Dagger pranks that came at the expense of major campus programs.
8. Costumes for Coachella (2011)
"Never trust anything you see on the Internet" became a reality for students who saw a Facebook event advertising that USC Undergraduate Student Government's Program Board would give away 10 Coachella tickets to students dressed in the best costumes. At 1 p.m., about 50 people in bizarre and ludicrous costumes gathered at Tommy Trojan in anticipation of the giveaway, only for the familiar black Skull and Dagger banner to fall from the top of the Student Union. The prank was funny and creative, but it damaged Program Board's credibility and caused some students to criticize Skull and Dagger's pranks for going too far.
7. Dress Code Security Guards (2007)
Sunny southern California yields quite a number of students clad in sunglasses on their walk to class, but they were suddenly met with mock security guards who asked them to take off their sunglasses because they were a violation of the school dress code. Shady move, Skull and Dagger.
6. Wrapped Bikes (2008)
Students waking up late and relying on their bikes to get to class on time were in for a surprise when they woke up to their bikes wrapped in industrial-strength cellophane. It wasn't just one bike rack, either. Skull and Dagger made sure to get every single rack on campus, delaying hundreds of students from their morning commute. The prank was aimed towards freshmen and sophomores, who have lower priority and later registration than their upperclassmen counterparts, resulting in less favorable classes at early morning times. Seeing the looks on their faces might have been hilarious, but making them late for class at a university where tuition is high and every minute counts is a little less funny.
5. Reserved Football Seats (2014)
Ah, football, USC's favorite pastime and the easiest way to get unsuspecting students riled up. An email was sent out en masse to the student body from an official-looking USC email address that appeared to be from the ticket office. It stated that students are required to obtain a reserved seat in addition to purchasing season tickets. Most importantly, only 3,000 seats were available to undergraduate students, and those wishing to obtain one could begin lining up at 9 a.m. outside the Student Union (sound familiar?). However, this prank went a bit too far as students were willing to cut class to stand in line. It also hurt the reputation of the ticket office and the athletic department, which does legitimately offer personal seat licenses. A great prank in concept, but poor in execution.
4. Traveler Memorial (1997)
USC's beloved equine mascot Traveler IV was reported to be dead, and it was announced that a campus memorial would be held. Students delivered eulogies and sang the fight song as they mourned the passing of the iconic horse. Then, a covered trailer arrived, presumably containing Traveler's successor. Tears turned to joy as students cheered until a donkey stepped out of the trailer, covered in a banner that read, "Traveler IV is alive. Don't you feel like an ass?" Nothing like a little horsing around from Skull and Dagger.
3. Star Wars Trailer (1999)
Remember the excitement for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" this year? Rewind back to 1999, when Skull and Dagger placed an ad in the Daily Trojan announcing that a new "Star Wars" trailer would be screened at Bovard Auditorium. Of course, the specific "kind" of trailer was never mentioned, and lo and behold, 300 excited Star Wars fans and media members were greeted with a car pulling a U-Haul trailer and a sign that read "Star Wars Trailer Episode 1." May the farce be with you, indeed.
2. College Fear Factor (2002)
What would USC students do for $50,000? An announcement floated around announcing on-campus auditions for a reality-TV show called "College Fear Factor." Qualifications included the ability to swallow live goldfish and eat raw pigs' feet with buttermilk. Gulping down fish the students did, but Skull and Dagger revealed it was all a hoax before forcing their fellow Trojans to go so far as devouring pigs' feet for a monetary prize and TV show that didn't exist. The Trojan Family is real.
1. Marqise Lee's Special Announcement (2013)
In 2013, new initiates celebrated the 100th anniversary of Skull and Dagger with what was billed as a "special announcement by the university." In front of Tommy Trojan and a crowd of 400 that included television news crews, the Undergraduate Student Government president introduced the event followed by the Trojan Marching Band playing and the USC Song Girls dancing to 'Fight On!' Football players Matt Barkley and Khaled Holmes then brought out their teammate Marqise Lee, who announced he would not be returning to the football team in the fall and has opted to instead join the USC basketball team. Holmes reassured the audience that Lee was not serious, and the traditional Skull and Dagger banner dropped from the Student Union balcony amid a flutter of fake $100 bills printed with the society's symbol. The television news crews left, disgruntled that they had been pranked. Well done, Skull and Dagger.
This story originally suggested USC may have sanctioned one of the pranks listed. This was not confirmed and has been removed.
Reach Staff Reporter Beverly Pham here.