My friend, a 19-year-old USC student, shared with me a campus legend that she heard from another student when she was a freshman.
“Okay. Um, so freshman year… wait, back up. So at USC, there are three dining halls, and EVK is, like, the worst one. So it’s kind of like a running joke, just like about how bad it is, like someone found a caterpillar in their salad there…yeah. It’s bad. So, anyways, our freshman year, like week 2 of school, there was this rumor going around about how this one kid had died at EVK. And I don’t know if this actually happened, like, if there was an actual guy at USC who died, but if he’s real, I’m like a hundred percent sure it wasn’t because he ate at EVK. So I think that part is way exaggerated. But anyways, the story was that he caught norovirus from eating at EVK, and then it got so bad that he had to be airlifted to Cedars-Sinai. And the reason no one ever talks about it is because apparently his aunt was on the board of USC, and she, like, threatened the news orgs and stuff that wanted to report on it, and that’s why there’s all those “wash your hand so you don’t get norovirus” signs at EVK now.”
This story is particularly fascinating to me because I had also heard it my freshman year at USC. USC has a rich tradition of campus lore, but this is one of the more recent pieces of folklore I have encountered at USC, and it is probably less widespread because it is more of a parody folk legend. It is highly unlikely that something like this ever happened or that dining hall food would cause someone to die. In fact, almost all of the story is implausible, which makes this legend all the more interesting; it means that the people who hear it and spread it are suspending their disbelief in order to participate in a piece of USC culture. Folklore is often a way people connect, and the in-group aspect of being able to joke with someone else about how bad a dining hall is through a legend solidifies one’s identity as a USC student, as someone who would know what EVK is and why the story takes place there.
The informant is my 20-year-old friend from Washington, D.C. He heard this campus legend about our Quaker high school from upperclassmen students when he was a freshman.
“So in high school, there was this legend–I don’t know if it’s a legend, because everyone says it’s true, but no one knows who it was and it happened in one of the graduating classes before we got to high school. I don’t know. Anyways, whenever we had Meeting for Worship, which is basically the whole school once a week goes to this big room and sits in silence for a class period to reflect, or think, or whatever…anyways, whenever we had meeting, there was this guy who would go and poop on one of the desks in the classrooms. And this happened for, like, WEEKS on end. And everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who this person was and how to catch them. And then, so, one week, when everyone was in the Meeting room, they had the entire upper school on lockdown. And they were making sure to see who was leaving Meeting to go to the bathroom or whatever, and they made sure no one was entering the upper school and no one was in the hallways. Anyways, so there’s no incident, and they all go back to class. And everyone thinks the thing is over. But then, the middle schoolers get out of their meeting for worship, and when they go back to class, someone had come and pooped on one of the middle-school desks. And they never figured out who this person was.”
Campus legends have always been particularly interesting to me, and this one is especially compelling because it is so specific to the age group of high schoolers. Legends stipulate by their definition that there must be an element of doubt as to whether or not the story is true, and such doubt about this story could only exist in this particular age group. High schoolers are at probably one of the only ages where a story about someone going around pooping on desks could be true, because this would not be a plausible story in the adult world, nor could it realistically happen in younger age groups, because not only of the planning required but also because their rebellions against authority are almost always more tame than those of older children. Though this is clearly example of the counter-hegemonic bend of most children’s and young adults’ lore, this particular legend could be interpreted as counter-hegemonic in more ways than one–it could be pure strategy to use the Meeting for Worship period to poop on desks, but it also could be a rebellion against the he spirit of Meeting for Worship, which is something religious and of high importance in Quakerism.