Victoria University's student association are calling Police Minister Stuart Nash's comments about the increase in sexual assaults linked to the beginning of the tertiary semester, "inflammatory and unhelpful".
However, Mr Nash said the comments were misunderstood, and said he wanted to understand the trends "so we can better target resources to solving the problem".
Mr Nash told RNZ that anecdotal evidence suggested a February-March increase in sexual assaults could be due to the return of university "and maybe what's happening is 18 and 19-year-olds are away from home for the first time, mixing with alcohol and orientations for example, that might be the reason".
He also said the rise could be due to the delayed reporting of assaults over the Christmas break.
"What we do know is you mix alcohol with young men and women then sometimes, not always of course, but sometimes it doesn't end well," he told RNZ.
VUWSA President Tamatha Paul said that a Minister "should know better than to make assumptions based off anecdotal evidence".
"Those assumptions are hurtful to young people and reinforce the idea that sexual assault survivors could have avoided their assault if they had chosen not to drink."
"One in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. It is irresponsible of Minister Nash to isolate anecdotal figures and make assumptions that go against a range of evidence that is now out there regarding sexual assault."
Mr Nash tweeted in response to Ms Paul today, saying, "You misunderstood my messages in the article".
"I’m trying to understand the reasons for a trend that shows an increase in sexual assaults every year at this time of the year so we can better target resources to solving the problem. Something we all want to see."
"Agree there is a lot more we can be doing to educate young people on this. Let’s acknowledge we have a real problem and work to find solutions."
Ms Paul said the message that needs to be pushed is "that people shouldn’t assault others, not that people shouldn’t get themselves assaulted".
"We are calling on the Government to immediately undertake the development of a minimum standard sexuality education programme to be delivered consistently across the country, not just in schools who feel like it. "