University of Southern California

SCampus Student Guidebook

University Governance

E.2 Sexual Misconduct

E.2 Sexual Misconduct

I. Introduction

The University of Southern California expects that all members of the university community – students, faculty, staff and friends – should be able to pursue their work and education in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment, coercion, violence and sexual intimidation. The university community is committed to fostering a safe campus environment where sexual misconduct and violence are unacceptable, and where those who believe they were harmed by another in violation of this policy are provided support and avenues of redress as appropriate. All incoming students are required to participate in mandatory educational programs about preventing sexual harassment and assault and promoting a culture of caring for and respecting one another. All members of the university community are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. This University Sexual Misconduct policy and the procedures set out in Section 17 have been developed to reaffirm these principles and to provide recourse for individuals whose rights have been violated.

II. Sexual Harassment

I. No student may commit sexual harassment, defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is either explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of an individual’s educational environment, employment, appointment, admission, or academic evaluation; or
  • submission to such conduct is used as a basis for evaluation in academic evaluations, admissions evaluations, or personnel decisions affecting an individual; or
  • such conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following examples:

  • written examples: suggestive or obscene letters, notes, text messages, and emails.
  • verbal examples: derogatory comments, slurs, jokes, or epithets of a sexual nature or sexist remarks, discussions about sex or sexual activities not related to a specific course topic, requests for sexual favors, repeated and unwelcome propositions for dates, offensive sexual remarks about an individual’s looks, clothing, body parts.
  • physical examples: assaults, impeding or blocking movement, touching, or body contact.
  • visual examples: inappropriate display of sexually explicit objects, pictures, cartoons, posters, computer screensavers, websites or movies, drawings, or sexual gestures.

Some illustrative examples:

  • A student makes sexually suggestive or insulting gestures, sounds or whistles each time a particular student or student group walks by;
  • A student impedes the ability of other students to participate in educational programs due to sex or gender;
  • A student gropes another student;
  • A student sends repeated text messages of an explicit nature to someone who did not ask to engage in a sexual conversation (electronic or otherwise);
  • A student repeatedly and inappropriately makes sexual comments to another student during class sessions;
  • A student sends sexually explicit comments or messages on class-related chat boards (such as Blackboard).

Students should understand that the following circumstances apply to any of the above listed standards or any other kind of sexual misconduct by an individual student or in concert with others:

  • Sexual activity and behavior which is not consensual is defined as sexual misconduct whether the assailant is a stranger or an acquaintance of the complainant;
  • Intoxication of the accused does not diminish his or her responsibility for an act of sexual misconduct;
  • In situations where the complainant is incapacitated or incapable of giving consent, which includes but is not limited to when the complainant is unable to consent due to consumption of alcohol or drugs, the accused is responsible for misconduct if the accused sexually violates the complainant.

III. Sexual Assault

No student may commit sexual assault, defined as any physical sexual act (including, but not limited to, actual or attempted intercourse, sexual touching, penetration using a body part or object, fondling, or groping) perpetrated upon a person:

  • without their consent, or where consent is not freely given;
  • where the assailant uses physical force, threat, coercion or intimidation to overpower or control another; or where the person assaulted fears that he or she, or another person, will be injured or otherwise harmed if he or she does not submit; or
  • where the ability to give or withhold consent is impaired due to the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to age or mental incapacity, or because of unconsciousness or blackout.

Valid consent must be informed and knowing. When people consent to sexual activity, they will have indicated, verbally or otherwise, that they are participating willingly, freely and voluntarily; silence, in and of itself, cannot demonstrate consent. Consent is an ongoing process in any sexual interaction and may be withdrawn at any time during a sexual interaction. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, does not by itself demonstrate consent. The absence of consent is presumed, but may be rebutted, when there is a difference in power or authority (either due to differences in physical strength, or differences in real or perceived authority).

IV. Child Abuse

No student may commit an act of child abuse, including sexual abuse of an individual under 18 years of age. All students have a personal responsibility to report any instances of known or suspected abuse, molestation or neglect relating to children. Please see the University Policy on Protecting Minors, at

V. Stalking

Stalking is experienced by women and men of all races, ethnicities, religions, ages, abilities and sexual orientations. It can affect every aspect of a victim’s life. It often begins with phone calls, emails, text messages or letters and may escalate to include physical violence.

No students may engage in stalking or tormenting behavior. Stalking is a crime in California and is subject to criminal prosecution. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear or apprehension, or to fear a threat to her or his safety, mental health or physical health. “Course of conduct” means behavior composed of more than one act across a period time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. For purposes of this policy, “tormenting behavior ” means willful conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments or terrorizes the person, that would have that effect on a reasonable person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.

Some illustrative examples of behavior that may come under this definition:

  • Non-consensual communication, including face-to-face, telephone calls, voice messages, emails, text messages, postings on social networking sites, written letters, gifts or any other communications that are undesired.
  • Use of online, electronic or digital technologies, including:
    • Posting picture(s) or information on social networking sites or other Websites.
    • Sending unwanted or unsolicited email or chat requests.
    • Posting private or public messages on school bulletin boards or Internet sites.
    • Installing spyware on another person’s computer.
    • Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to monitor another person.
  • Pursuing, following, waiting or showing up uninvited at or near a course, classroom, residence, workplace or other places frequented by the victim.
  • Surveillance or other types of observation, including staring or “peeping.”
  • Trespassing.
  • Vandalizing property.
  • Non-consensual touching.
  • Verbally or physically threatening.
  • Gathering information about an individual from friends, family or co-workers.
  • Threatening to harm self or others.
  • Defaming by lying to others about the victim (e.g., rumors of infidelity, etc.).
  • Third-party stalking or stalking by proxy.

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