The Slick

“One of the things you have to do as a freshmen, no matter what section of [the University of Southern California’s Trojan Marching] band you’re in, that has been done for twenty or thirty years, is that you have to eat this thing called the slick. At its most basic, it’s chili, French Fries and root beer all put in one cup and mixed together. In a lot of sections, the people who are graduating get to put whatever they want in there, like peppers, oatmeal… just really gross things. They say that if you don’t finish it, then you’re still a freshmen. It’s supposed to signify that you’re done with your freshmen year, and you’re now an older member of the band. The gist of it is that you have to finish it, and that’s just that. But this past year, there was a senior in one of the sections who just didn’t want to do it because he didn’t want to get in trouble and he thought it was just mean. It was interesting to see how that was such a huge deal. People in other sections were really angry. I was angry. ‘We had to do it when we were freshmen. Why don’t those freshmen have to do it?’ It was so scary, the mob mentality we had. ‘No, we’ve all done it! You all have to do it! It’s a ritual!’ We didn’t stop to even think about the logic of it.”


What I find particularly compelling about the slick is that it represents the last band event before a liminal period for both the freshmen and the seniors. Over the course of my interview with my informant, she mentioned several instances of freshmen hazing. The slick is the last of these. Every freshmen who eats the slick is then considered to be no longer a freshmen. They cannot actually be called sophomores until the next fall. Eating the slick is their initiation to that liminal stage where they are no longer freshmen, but not yet sophomores. They are no longer subject to the hazing of the older band members, but they are also not yet allowed the status or perks of being a sophomore and older band member. For the senior band members, this represents the end of their domination. While they will still be seniors for the remainder of the year, they have lost the ability to haze the freshmen because there are no longer any freshmen (assuming all the freshmen eat the slick). They are allowed the final gesture of putting whatever combinations of food and drink they find most disgusting into creating the slick. But that large part of their identity as seniors in having that domination over the freshmen is now gone. After all the freshmen have eaten the slick, the band no longer has freshmen and also, in some ways, seniors.