Administrators at the University of Southern California have issued an apology to the school’s students for the inclusion of questions pertaining to their sexual history in a mandatory training program on sexual violence.
During a Title IX class that is a prerequisite for the course, students were asked optional questions about their sexual histories. The questionnaire asked about students’ sexual encounters, including the number and frequency of such events within the past three months.
Students were also asked questions pertaining to their drinking habits.
The university has since issued a statement announcing the removal of the questions from the course.
“USC apologizes for any offense or discomfort caused by optional questions included as part of a mandatory on-line training for students on sexual consent, misconduct and other important issues,” Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president for administration, said.
Dickey went on to say that law requires all colleges and universities to offer the training, and that the one being used by the school was a standardized model in use by schools throughout the nation.
Campus Clarity created the course in question, offering “compliance training” for students and staff members, writes Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post.
Once the questionnaire was completed, participants then delved into a two-hour lesson on sexual assault, consent, and substance abuse. Students reported finding the lesson confusing, as they were first told a person who has had too much to drink cannot give consent, but when shown a scenario where both a man and woman were drunk and engaging in sexual activity, the video placed the blame on the male, saying he had sexually assaulted the woman.
The course also described “consent” and what was involved in offering such consent.
Campus Clarity released a statement answering concerns relating to the course, saying that “while the course may be mandatory in some schools, the questions are not.” The organization went on to say that schools have the option of including these surveys during the course, but that students do not have to give an answer, adding that each question includes a “no comment” option.
The purpose of the questions, according to the organization, is to provide schools with data in order to help them create a prevention program that is unique to their students’ needs.
With regards to the claims of sexism in the sexual assault portion of the course, Campus Clarity said the training course does not say the man is always to blame if both parties are drunk, adding that “it is disturbing that someone could draw this conclusion.” The organization went on to say the video was meant to show that the man had raped the woman while she was unconscious, and being drunk does not absolve anyone from legal responsibilities.
According to the organization, the course is mandated under the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act put in place in an effort to help save students from sexual assault and harassment.