Alleged rape survivor Emma Sulkowicz carries mattress to graduation

The Columbia University student vowed to carry her mattress around campus until her alleged rapist was expelled

Published May 19, 2015 3:40PM (EDT)

Emma Sulkowicz
Emma Sulkowicz

Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz, who made headlines last year for vowing to carry her mattress around campus in protest of the school's handling of sexual assault allegations, was able to continue her performance art project all the way through her graduation on Tuesday, where she appeared in a light blue cap and gown with her notorious mattress in tow.

The Columbia Spectator confirmed that Sulkowicz was allowed to bring her mattress with her to commencement, despite a recent change to the Columbia's Class Day ceremony guidelines prohibiting students from bringing "large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces." After initially being asked to leave the mattress behind in a tent, Sulkowicz was later seen waiting with it in the commencement processional line.

The mattress is the focal point of Sulkowicz's senior thesis, "Carry That Weight," which sets out to highlight Columbia's alleged mishandling of numerous sexual assault allegations -- including Sulkowicz's own. The student claims she was raped by a classmate, Paul Nungesser, in August 2012, and committed to carrying her mattress -- a symbol of the burden sexual assault survivors are forced to bear alone -- across campus for the duration of her senior year, or until her alleged rapist was no longer at Columbia.

Nungesser recently filed a lawsuit against the school for allowing Sulkowicz's project, alleging the university violated his Title IX rights. According to the Spectator, his name appeared on Columbia's graduation program on Tuesday.



By Jenny Kutner

MORE FROM Jenny Kutner