Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz has caused disconcert after carrying a mattress along with her fellow classmates to a podium whilst accepting her graduating diploma.
Met with fervent applause from fellow students, the German student who carries a mattress around campus in protest to a purported rape against her did so because her alleged attacker has yet to be held accountable.
As she stepped up to the podium the student, the visual arts major refused to shake hands with Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, maintaining her defiance as the university refuses to expel the accused man who was also present at the ceremony.
After collecting her diploma Sulkowicz made a point of noting that her rapist was in attendance at today’s ceremony, embittering her to continue her protest against the school.
To date the man, Paul Nungesser, who Sulkowicz accuses of having sexually assaulted her and two other students has not been charged with a crime after the district attorney’s office held that there was a ‘lack of reasonable suspicion.’
Undaunted, Sulkowicz said she plans to carry forward a lawsuit against the university which she initiated in April for failing to prevent the sexual assault against her.
The suit was launched three days after a judge tossed out another gender based lawsuit brought by a male student against the university.
Notes the suit: ‘Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning … learning and living environment.’
Named in the suit along with the school, are its board of trustees, President Lee C. Bollinger and Professor Jon Kessler.
At present it is not necessarily understood the amount of damages Sulkowicz has sought, that said one presupposes the act of bringing the school to account carries more weight in gold than any sum the student could be offered.
Ironically the visual artist student would earn course credit for carrying a mattress around campus as part of her senior project titled, ‘Carry that weight,’ a symbolic testament to her protest against the school’s alleged tolerance of rape and sexual assault.
Told the student via the Columbia Spectator in September: ‘The past year of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate and private space,’
‘I was raped in my own dorm bed and since then, that space has become fraught for me. I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there since then.’
Also launching a suit against the school, is the accused man, Paul Nungesser who adamantly maintains that he did not rape Emma Sulkowicz and that the sex had been consensual.
The suit notes that ‘day to day life is unbearably stressful, as Emma and her mattress parade around campus each and every day,’
The suit also claims as a consequence of all the attention the accused rape has received, Nungesser, ‘has been subjected to severe, pervasive … and threatening behavior by other Columbia students, believing that Paul is a `serial rapist,’ whenever Paul has appeared at university activities.’
Adding: ‘Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning and offense [sic] learning and living environment.’
people excusing #EmmaSulkowicz behaviour are engaging in a public witchhunt against a man who was found not responsible of a crime.
— Chloe Price (@Dekashoko) May 19, 2015
Mattress Girl brought her mattress to graduation, http://t.co/j3oKkhltHe Did it get a degree too? It’s probably more employable than she is.
— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) May 19, 2015
The complaint also said he wants to stay in the United States, where he has been dating a girlfriend for over a year, and is seeking consulting work in New York, though job prospects have been ‘severely jeopardized’ by the school’s support of Sulkowicz who to date has refused, as school charter laws mandate, to sanction the student for carrying a mattress around campus.
In an email responding to a request for comment, Sulkowicz wrote: ‘I think it’s ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece.
‘It’s ridiculous that he would read it as a `bullying strategy,’ especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it’s just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia.
‘If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?’
Art or vicious public relations shaming exercise? Heal or terrorize?
Sulkowicz is one of among 23 students who sued Columbia last year, accusing the school of mishandling sexual assault cases.
— Teo Armus (@teoarmus) May 19, 2015