Around 1 p.m. yesterday, about 50 students dressed in elaborate costumes congregated at Tommy Trojan, with hope of winning Coachella tickets.
But when the judges announced the winners, all of them turned out to be members of Skull & Dagger, a semi-secret honor society that annually pranks the university.
As the crowd looked around, upset and confused because the costume winners were all dressed in black overcoats, a large banner with a skull came down from the roof of the Student Union building across from Tommy Trojan, revealing the prank.
“I’m just really sad. I spent $80 on my entire costume,” said Nick Davis, a junior majoring in narrative studies and Russian.
Davis was wearing a wedding dress and veil to the event to try and win Coachella tickets.
Danielle Espinoza, the incoming executive director of Program Board, said the majority of Program Board members were unaware the event was a deception.
“I would like the students to know that this prank is not a reflection of Program Board,” Espinoza said. “All but a few members were completely unaware that this event was not legitimately related to the organization.”
Last year, Skull & Dagger members created a two-part prank. The members handed out coupons for free food at The Lot, a temporary dining facility at USC, for a fictional “Student Appreciation Day.”
The prank was not well received by USC Hospitality, however, which said the prank negatively impacted service.
Last year’s Skull & Dagger members also placed a stack of microwaves in front of Tommy Trojan as a tribute to former USC President Steven B. Sample.
There were mixed reactions from students who attended the costume contest thinking they could win a free Coachella ticket.
“I am very, very upset. This is kind of messed up. I spent $40 I didn’t have to make this happen,” said Davey Martinez, a junior majoring in music industry who dressed up in a complex balloon costume that covered most of his body. “Coachella is a little too big to mess around with people.”
Others thought the prank was funny.
“It’s a good joke and everyone is taking it too seriously,” said Chantae Reden, a sophomore majoring in political science.
Eric Ronan, a senior majoring in public relations and a member of Skull & Dagger, was pleased with how the prank went.
“We won,” he said.
Alisia Thompson, a senior majoring in neuroscience and a member of Skull & Dagger, had one word for students:
“No-chella,” Thompson said.