October 29, 2021
Dear USC community,
Sexual assault is a serious problem at university campuses across the country, and it is a problem at USC. When it happens, the entire university is impacted. We share in the anger at this violence and compassion for those who are harmed. It strikes at the heart of the community and the care we owe each other.
If a sexual assault occurs at USC, a critical service we provide is the confidential advocacy and counseling through Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Services (RSVP). It allows for individuals who have experienced harm or who have seen harm committed to seek confidential support and assistance. RSVP counselors support the students who contact them, including helping them make formal reports if that is desired. Absent exceptional circumstances, information shared with RSVP remains confidential and is not elevated.
In late September, RSVP received between five to seven confidential disclosures of possible drugging and possible sexual assault at a fraternity and took the exceptional step of sharing that information more broadly. We now know that there was a troubling delay in acting on this information, and specifically in evaluating it for notification to the community. This has highlighted for me the gray area in our processes when reports come into RSVP, and the challenge of marrying a highly confidential support service, which may have limited details, with the need to inform and warn the community.
As president, I came to USC with the promise to confront what is wrong and lead the effort to fix what is broken. As we learn more, there will be some things we can do quickly and others that will take more time. This is too important to not get right.
To provide the latest information on what we know, we’ve tried to answer the questions we’ve been asked and have prepared these FAQs. They also describe how we currently prevent and respond to sexual assaults and explain our legal and privacy obligations. There are many pieces in this complicated situation, and we urge you to read these FAQs. We will be updating them in response to new information and questions.
Finally, if there are questions we have not yet addressed, please let us know by reaching out to QandA@usc.edu. Keeping you informed is also part of my promise to you.
Carol L. Folt