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.