The University of Calgary said it cannot expel a convicted sex offender studying at the school because it has no grounds to do so.

Connor Neurauter, 21, was sentenced to 90 days behind bars after pleading guilty to sexual interference of a person under 16, during a court appearance in Kamloops on Jan. 4. Much of the case is covered by a publication ban, but it’s known that the incident involved nude photos of a 13-year-old girl when Neurauter was 18.

A charge of possessing child pornography was stayed at the hearing.

Neurauter’s sentence sparked anger among many, including the unnamed victim’s mother. She complained to one media outlet that the court had already delayed the case several times to accommodate Neurauter’s studies, as well as his junior hockey career.

More than 33,000 people have signed a petition urging the University of Calgary to expel Neurauter on the grounds that his conduct violates the university’s sexual violence policy.

But the university said Thursday that Neurauter won’t be expelled.

University Provost Dru Marshall said the situation is challenging, but the crime took place before Neurauter was enrolled at the university.

Marshall said Neurauter has been advised not to return to campus for the remainder of the term, and that the 21-year-old has not been on campus since Tuesday.

The school’s decision comes after the petition’s organizer, Kaitlyn Casswell, called on university leadership to take a strong stand against Neurauter.

“While the courts have seemingly failed the victim, the University of Calgary now has the opportunity to change the narrative,” Casswell wrote on the petition’s page.

U of C student and former sex assault victim Mandy Gillis said she’s alarmed that the university is allowing a convicted sex offender to finish his studies on campus.

“It’s a slap in the face to all victims, especially to the one that he was convicted of hurting,” she told CTV Calgary on Wednesday. “I feel betrayed by the university,” she said. “There are codes of conduct that they expect everybody to follow, and if you’re convicted of a serious crime, how are you allowed to stay?”

Student Dustin Pelletier also questioned the decision by the judge and the school.

“Since he’s done something that bad he should probably not be in school anymore,” he told CTV Calgary. “He should just go to jail.”

Haley Scott, of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, says making allowances for a sex offender to finish his studies sends the wrong message to victims.

“Stories like this make them believe that they’re not going to be believed,” Scott told CTV Calgary. “It may keep them from coming forward to report experiences of sexual violence.”

Neurauter’s mother told CTV Calgary she’s concerned for her son’s safety as he awaits his sentence. “It was part of the plea bargain that the prosecution offered and, frankly, we encouraged our son to take it,” she said in a phone interview. She says she now regrets pushing him to accept the plea deal.

“He didn’t rape anyone,” she said. “He didn’t assault anyone.”

With files from CTV Calgary and The Canadian Press