Washington Square News
1.25.16 | Patrick Seaman
In order to register for courses in the spring, students at the University of Southern California were asked to detail their sexual history, including the number of partners they had in the past three months. Students were instructed to ask questions such as “would you like to try this with me?” in order to obtain consent. As romantic as this may sound, it appears that USC’s mission was not, in fact, to school the next generation on how to properly woo and win over a partner. Rather, the survey was designed as an “innovative, engaging and informative online course, created with students for students,” aimed, presumably, at trying to teach students about the risks of drinking, sex and the legal implications of the two combined.
In USC’s apology regarding the course, the administration made it clear that these courses are mandatory for all universities, and that many schools use the same module as USC. Despite the removal of said intrusive questions, the existence of the course in the first place demonstrates the widening gap between administrative action and student comfort levels. School administrations need to learn how to be more effective in dealing with sensitive topics, and need to understand where the boundaries of personal privacy are.
However, students should also keep in mind that these sort of personal questions come from a good place. College can be dangerous for students who are not properly educated when it comes to issues of affirmative consent and sexual health, especially when alcohol is involved — at least half of college sexual-assaults occur after students have consumed alcohol. That is what these surveys are primarily meant for, assessing potential alcohol-related risks. However, for these measures to be more effective, there needs to be more open communication between the students and the administration.