- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Student leaders at the University of Minnesota are examining a rule that would require students to give some form of ‘yes’ before having sex.

Supporters say an “affirmative consent” policy would make it easier to determine whether sex is truly consensual, Minnesota Public Radio News reported (https://bit.ly/1AWgT2N ). But critics say the rule is ambiguous, especially when trying to interpret whether gestures imply consent.

The school’s current policy requires consent to engage in sex, and consent can’t be obtained through force, intimidation or if a student is unconscious or under the influence. The current policy says it must be “mutually understood” - a term that student body president Joelle Stangler says is vague.

A panel is looking into the merits of changing the policy and Stangler hopes to see recommendations by the end of the spring semester.

“It’s fundamentally shifting how we think about sexual assault, and that itself is a pretty big hurdle to overcome,” Stangler said.

Katie Eichele, director of the university’s Aurora Center that offers support services for victims of sexual assault, said letting things progress until someone says “no” doesn’t really work. Supporters of the policy say requiring some form of “yes” would make it easier for two people to understand each other’s limits.

Asking for sex doesn’t need to be awkward, Stangler said. “Someone might be able to ask, ‘Are you comfortable going further?’ … or ‘Can we keep going?’ It’s a one-sentence sort of thing.”

Antioch College in Ohio was the first campus to issue an affirmative consent rule in 1991. Last fall, California became the first state to require the policy at all campuses. At least three Minnesota colleges - the University of St. Thomas, Carleton College and Augsburg College - have similar policies.

Senior Kevin McCollow, a computer science senior from Lino Lakes, said seeking permission at various stages of a sexual encounter “would be a buzzkill” and might be awkward. “But maybe it’s for the best,” he said.

University vice provost Danita Brown Young said the current policy is strong, but school leaders are open to working with students.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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