More than a thousand people have signed an online petition protesting Wednesday's decision by President Eric Kaler to delay a new sexual-assault policy at the University of Minnesota.
The petition, on Change.org, was launched Wednesday night, just hours after Kaler agreed to postpone the so-called "affirmative consent" rule until September because of concerns raised by members of the Board of Regents.
The rule, which is similar to those surfacing on college campuses throughout the country, would create a new definition of sexual assault at the U. It states that students could face disciplinary action, including expulsion, for sexual encounters unless both participants express consent through "clear and unambiguous words or actions."
On Wednesday, Regent Michael Hsu asked for the delay to give the board time to discuss the legal implications of the new policy.
Critics have called such affirmative consent rules unworkable and unfair, arguing that they undermine the rights of the accused in disciplinary cases.
The online petition, "We need affirmative consent now," was started by student body President Joelle Stangler late Wednesday, and had more than a thousand signatures by Thursday afternoon.
Stangler said students are frustrated by the delay. "To students, this is a common sense practice and one that we should be promoting, not delaying," she said.
The petition reads, in part: "This is not controversial, revolutionary, or anything other than common sense student safety. We need this policy to be implemented on schedule and not be delayed until after September."
Kaler's administration formally proposed the new rule in June. It was slated to take effect following a 30-day public comment period, which ends next week.
Hsu, one of the newest members of the Board of Regents, said he asked for the delay after learning about the policy from recent news reports. He said he's received "many e-mails and calls" this week, urging the board "to take the time to look at the policy and get it right so that all parties are protected."
On Thursday, Dean Johnson, chair of the Board of Regents, released a statement saying: "Sexual assault on campus is something the Board of Regents and University leaders take very seriously and we need to make sure we have the right policies in place to address it."
The board is expected to discuss the policy at its next meeting, in September.