GM is a 19 year old college student from Miami. She studies communications and is a freshman.
Context: Trojan Check is a symptom check questionnaire that all guests and students who wish to enter the USC campus and dining halls had to complete and pass during the COVID pandemic between January 2021 and April 2022. It was a part of USC’s efforts to manage COVID at the university and help students gradual return to campus.
Collector: Tell me your thoughts about Trojan Check and its colors.
GM: Trojan Check has different colors every day. For example some days are red, purple, yellow, which no one liked, green, blue, and pink. The pink Trojan Check was pretty and my roommates and I realized that whenever the Trojan Check was pink, it would turn out to be a good day. So from then on we used it as a good luck charm. We went on to ask other students about it and they agreed that pink Trojan Check days were the best.
Collector: Did you do anything special on pink Trojan Check days?
GM: Honestly, no. We just had a little extra pep in our step. Even if a pink Trojan Check doesn’t actually make it a great day, I feel like our attitudes towards that day are better if that makes sense? Like as college students things are hard, especially during COVID. So the pink Trojan Check days make them a little better. I think we and everyone we’ve talked to about it are just looking for a little hope.
Analysis: College students and many other folk groups look for signs of good luck among the stress they have from school and the COVID crisis and while some find coins, angel numbers, and certain animals as good luck, many USC Trojans consider a pink trojan check (something that represents a solution to a crisis) day a good one. I think it’s really special that USC students are turning something that is a result of a crisis situation a symbol of faith. Deep down it reflects resilience on their part as a folk group.
Context: The week of the football game between LA rivals USC and UCLA is known as “Rivalry Week” or “Conquest,” and during it the students of both schools spend the whole week getting excited for the big game. Rivalry Week has a history between the schools of serious pranks being committed, many of which are detailed in other archive posts. Informant MF, a member and prior Archivist of the Trojan Knights, instead describes the traditional measures that the Knights take to prevent pranks.
Main Piece: During Rivalry Week, the Trojan Knights practice the tradition of Tommy Watch. Informant MF says that it probably started during the 40s, since that was the height of the prank war between USC and UCLA. Even after the prank war ended, there’s still a lot of tensions around Rivalry Week because “if someone’s gonna do something stupid, they’ll do it then.” During Tommy Watch, the Knights will set up a tent around the Tommy Trojan statue on Trousdale Parkway and cover him (as well as other prominent statues on USC’s campus) with duct tape to prevent anyone from painting or messing with him. They also build a dog house for the George Tirebiter statue to protect him since he’s on the edge of campus.
The Knights will then guard Tommy Trojan and Traveler for the entire week. Knights take shifts so they can stay 24 hours a day for the whole week, and as a community students and faculty will bring the Knights on Tommy Watch food. To MF’s knowledge, Tommy Watch has always successfully stopped prank attempts during Rivalry Week, and so the tradition continues to prevent future pranks that might cost the school thousands in damages.
Thoughts: I think that Tommy Watch itself is a good representation of the good that can come from heated school rivalries. While pranks are flashy, they’re also damaging and can easily go too far. Tommy Watch allows the USC community to work together with the Knights to protect the icons that USC maintains, thus furthering the feelings of school spirit between students.
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.