Supporters of U of M sexual consent policy worry delay sends wrong signals

Supporters of an "affirmative consent" policy at the University of Minnesota worry that a decision at a Board of Regents meeting this week to delay implementation could send mixed signals to students.

The consent policy proposed by President Eric Kaler last month requires that "each person who wishes to engage in the sexual activity to obtain consent" from their partner through words or body language.

Kaler agreed to delay implementation of the policy until the Board of Regents' September meeting after concerns about legal implications were raised at a meeting on Wednesday.

Minnesota Student Association President Joelle Stangler, who has been a strong supporter of the affirmative consent policy, told MPR News' Cathy Wurzer on Thursday that the policy is an effort to help move toward a "yes means yes" culture for students.

Stangler blamed the board's hesitation about the policy on critical coverage in the media. She said she's concerned that the delay means that incoming students won't be briefed on the new policy at the university's orientation this coming school year.

"Most students are coming into the university with remedial sex education," Stangler said. "Their equivalent of sex education is if somebody came into the university with a pre-algebra level of math."

Critics of the policy have said it creates an assumption of guilt for the accused. But Stangler said those concerns are "unfounded."

"If those were legitimate concerns, the Department of Justice would be stepping in and not allowing these type of adjudication processes," Stangler said. "There would be a larger national conversation if there was a due process issue, and yet there isn't."

Universities and colleges across the country have adopted similar policies in recent years. Some states, like California, have even passed laws requiring sexual consent policies at universities and colleges. A similar proposal in Minnesota failed to pass the Legislature.

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