A student at the university named Tucker Reed gained widespread attention in 2013 for blogging about a peer who she said had raped her, helping to put the issue of campus sexual assault in the national spotlight. Ms. Reed and others worked together to start a group called the Student Coalition Against Rape, and to file a federal Title IX complaint against the university. Ms. Reed and other activists have spoken publicly about what they have called their colleges' mishandling of their cases. When news emerged of the federal inquiry at USC, the university said at the time that it looked forward to working with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights "to address any concerns and review our protocols as needed."
The department identified the university in its initial list of 55 institutions facing a federal inquiry for potential Title IX violations over their handling of sexual-violence cases.
In May 2015, the university expelled a football player after investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against him. A state judge later put his expulsion on hold. The administration said it would reinstate him as a student, but not as a member of the football team.
In a separate case involving a former football player allegedly involved in a sexual assault, a state appellate court reversed his suspension in April 2016, ruling that he was given neither adequate notice of the allegations against him nor a fair hearing by the university.
The university took part in a climate survey on sexual misconduct that was organized by the Association of American Universities. USC's results, released in September 2015, said that 14.5 percent of undergraduate women respondents had reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual penetration during their time in college. Twenty-three percent of that population reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual touching.
The institution has affirmed its commitment to victims of sexual assault, collected resources online, and taken several steps to improve its policies and its climate. They include forming a campus task force on sexual misconduct, strengthening training for students, with an emphasis on bystander-intervention techniques, and revising the university's student-conduct code, among other changes.