The university later released a statement saying the questions have been removed from the online 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 in a statement provided to The Washington Post.
The training course was developed by Campus Clarity, which provides “compliance training” for university students and staff members, according to its website.
“All colleges and universities are required by law to provide such training,” Dickey said in the university’s statement, “and our training was a standardized module being used by hundreds of colleges and universities across the country.”
In addition to questions about sexual history, the questionnaire surveyed students about their drinking habits.
“It was just full of super personal questions,” Jacob Ellenhorn, a USC student, told Campus Reform.
After completing the questionnaire, students were then walked through a two-hour interactive lesson on sexual assault, consent, and substance abuse. In one case, students were told that a sexual partner who has had too much to drink cannot give consent. However, in a different scenario, the course shows a video of a man and a woman who are both drunk and engaging in sexual activity. The video, according to Ellenhorn, blames the man for sexually assaulting the woman.
“It kept on saying that drunk people cannot give consent,” Ellenhorn told the news site. “In one scenario both the man and the woman were drunk but the video still blames the male for the assault. I found that a little confusing.”
The training course went on to discuss “consent” and provide tips about “what to do if you are accused of sexual assault.”
On Tuesday, Campus Clarity released a statement — including a Q&A — to address students’ comments and concerns.
The organization said that “while the course may be mandatory in some schools, the questions are not.”
“Schools have the option of including short surveys that are interspersed throughout the course,” according to the Q&A. “In these surveys, students are asked about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sexual activity and substance use. But students can choose not to answer these questions.”
The organization said the questions include a “no comment” option for students who do not want to respond.
The purpose of the questions, according to the organization, is to provide data to “allow schools to better tailor their prevention programming to the unique needs of their student population.”
In response to the concern about sexism regarding sexual assault, Campus Clarity said the training course does not say that if both a man and woman are drunk, the man is always to blame.
“And it is disturbing that someone could draw this conclusion from the course,” the organization said, adding: “The reason the man is to blame is because he rapes her while she is unconscious. It does not matter that he has also been drinking. As mentioned in the course, ‘being drunk doesn’t release anyone from legal or student conduct responsibility.’ ”
The training, according to Campus Clarity, is mandated under the Campus Save Act, legislation that aims to protect students from sexual harassment and assault.