Columbia University Student Emma Sulkowicz Carried Her Mattress to Graduation

She had promised to bring it with her everywhere as long as her alleged rapist remained on campus.

Shoulder, Elbow, Joint, Comfort, Sleeveless shirt, Black hair, Eyelash, Youth, Long hair, Flash photography,
(Image credit: Archives)

Update, 5/19: Earlier today at Columbia University's graduation ceremony, one unusual item could be seen on stage amongst the caps and gowns.

Emma Sulkowicz, who said another student sexually assaulted her in 2012, has carried her dorm-room mattress with her everywhere on campus for a year to protest the university's handling of her case. The school announced a rule Monday banning large objects on the graduation stage, the Columbia Spectator reported.

Nevertheless, this morning, Sulkowicz, with the help of several other graduating students, carried her mattress across the stage. Neither she nor any of the women who helped her carry the mattress shook Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's hand.

Original post, 4/24: When Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz carried a mattress around campus as an anti-rape performance art piece, she became a household name. But the man she accused of raping her says the school treated him unfairly as a result, and he's suing for gender discrimination.

The New York Times reports that Paul Nungesser claims Columbia "became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student's harassment campaign." Sulkowicz made "Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)" her senior thesis, which means she got college credit for the performance. Nungesser has consistently denied he raped Sulkowicz and was cleared of any charges.

Sulkowicz spoke out against the lawsuit in a statement to the Associated Press:

Nungesser's suit isn't targeting Sulkowicz but is instead naming the school, its board of trustees, and Sulkowicz's art professor as defendants. He's asking for damages from the school for what he says is damage to his reputation, hurting his career prospects. The school declined to comment about the lawsuit.

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Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.