Consent policy postponed following debate

Regents requested a delay to further discuss implications of the proposed rule changes.

Christopher Aadland

University of Minnesota administrators agreed to delay updating the institutionâÄôs sexual consent policy just days before they expected to implement it, after regents requested additional time to discuss the change at a meeting last Wednesday. About a week before the University was poised to approve the new standards âÄî which would require all parties engaged in a sexual act to give affirmative consent beforehand âÄî University President Eric Kaler granted requests to postpone enactment of the revised policy after regents said they wanted more clarity on the changeâÄôs legal implications. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of confusion,âÄù said Regent Michael Hsu, who first suggested the board should further examine the plan. âÄúI just think we need to take some time to make sure everyone knows what weâÄôre doing.âÄù Some of the concerns over the new policy stemmed from worry that the rights of the accused could be hampered in sexual assault investigations, said Katie Eichele, director of the UniversityâÄôs Aurora Center. Kyle Kroll, president of the UniversityâÄôs Professional Student Government, said uncertainties could be cleared up with better-defined language, especially when it comes to disciplinary actions and accusers. âÄúI donâÄôt know how itâÄôs going to be interpreted,âÄù he said. âÄúI want to make sure that the policy has the right kind of guidelines and clarifications so that itâÄôs enforced uniformly.âÄù School officials drafted the revamped procedure, which was in a 30-day public comment period, as an administrative policy, a type of rule that doesnâÄôt require approval from regents. Though some feel the board is overstepping its role, Kaler said heâÄôs open to reexamining the policy with regents. âÄúThe policy itself is excellent,âÄù he said after the board meeting last week. âÄúIâÄôd argue that this is a bit of overreach, but IâÄôm willing to have a conversation.âÄù The affirmative consent policy, which was prompted by and modeled after similar rules at other universities, would also update rules about relationship violence and sexual assault, Eichele said. Despite months of work by student leaders, administrators and advocates, some regents and student leaders say officials need to address ambiguities in the policyâÄôs language before the new rules can be effective. Board Chair Dean Johnson said itâÄôs important to slow down and get advice from the UniversityâÄôs lawyers. âÄúGiven the importance of this topic, not only at the University of Minnesota but nationally, several regents agreed that the changes to the policy merit further discussion,âÄù he said in an email statement. âÄú[Implementation will be delayed] until we have an opportunity to consult with our General Counsel.âÄù Some regents, like Abdul Omari, said at the meeting that the policy is already thorough enough, and the board shouldnâÄôt hold up its implementation. Minnesota Student Association President Joelle Stangler said sheâÄôs confident administrators will eventually enact the policy, but the delay means student leaders will have to abandon planned educational opportunities for the first weeks of the school year. âÄúThereâÄôs no perceived benefit [to the delay],âÄù she said. âÄúA further review by the board isnâÄôt going to have any new action.âÄù ThereâÄôs no set date yet to talk about the policy, Hsu said. The boardâÄôs next meeting is in September.