Depending on who you ask, last Wednesday’s Skull and Dagger prank was either hilarious or mean-spirited and tasteless. According to a Daily Trojan online poll, students are essentially divided over whether the prank was upsetting or commendable — 35 percent of voters thought the prank was great, and 17 percent disapprove.
A Facebook event created last week advertised that Undergraduate Student Government’s Program Board would be giving away 10 Coachella tickets to students dressed in the best costumes Wednesday. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, about 50 people in ostentatious and ridiculous costumes crowded around Tommy Trojan, hoping to win the free Coachella tickets.
Their reward, after a few nervous moments of anticipation, was the sight of a banner with a skull plastered across it being unfolded from the top of the Student Union.
The graduating seniors of Skull and Dagger, a semi-secret honors society on campus, traditionally play a prank on the unsuspecting USC population. Past pranks have included wrapping bicycles (and a student) to the racks in heavy cellophane, hosting a fake “College Fear Factor,” and having security guards walking around accosting students for wearing sunglasses “in violation of dress code.”
These pranks might actually have been humorous — watching students desperately run to class upon discovering their bikes taped up, for example, seems like it would be amusing. But this year’s Skull and Dagger prank crossed a line when it involved Program Board.
Not only did the prank damage Program Board’s credibility, but it also reflects poorly on the Skull and Dagger members who hold leadership positions in USG.
Whether or not the prank was funny is arbitrary. Skull and Dagger needs to realize that its fun might come at the expense of trusted and respected USC programs.
Last year, Skull and Dagger announced a fake “Student Appreciation Day” with claims of free food at The Lot. When expectant students showed up, the announcement was revealed to be a hoax. This negatively impacted business and service at USC Hospitality Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality, told the Daily Trojan last year.
Some say the people upset with Skull and Dagger pranks are too uptight or lack a sense of humor. But the issue at stake is not whether the Coachella prank was juvenile and objectionable or brilliant and priceless, but it is a question of the unintended consequences of the prank.
Throughout the year, Program Board has hosted a number of interesting and fun events around campus.
And often, Program Board has publicized events on Facebook, so Facebook has become a reasonably reliable method of keeping up with all the latest fundraisers, giveaways, music festivals, movie showings, etc.
How else would we know when there is free CoolHaus at Tommy Trojan for USG Elections, free In-N-Out, DimSum on campus or another movie playing in McCarthy Quad?
It would be a gross exaggeration to say that Skull and Dagger’s prank completely undermines student trust in Program Board and USG.
Damage has been done, however. It was unnecessary to take advantage of student trust in Program Board and USG for the sake of a prank.
Pranks are never comfortable for the victims — that is the point.
But when these pranks begin to damage the trustworthiness and credibility of respected campus services, perhaps we should reconsider if this is truly “funny” anymore.
Rebecca Gao is a freshman majoring in global health and biological sciences. Her column, “Trojan Grounds,” runs Mondays.