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Columbia Students Drop Mattresses On President’s Lawn In Solidarity With Rape Victim


10.30.14 Prachi Gupta

Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz, the young woman who’s been carrying around a mattress to represent the burden of knowing her alleged rapist is still at school, has started an international movement. On Wednesday, thousands of students reaching Stanford and even the Central European University in Budapest attended rallies for an (inter)national day of action spurred by her movement, #CarryThatWeight.

While the larger movement aims to force colleges to adopt stronger policies against sexual assault, at Columbia, Sulkowicz and her peers have achieved some headway since the protest began in September. But the changes, which include a new rape crisis center, legal counsel for the alleged victims and the accused, and three new survivor advocates, are not enough.

With the help of organization No Red Tape, Barnard and Columbia students on Wednesday dropped 28 mattresses on the lawn of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s home. Why 28? Because that’s the “number of students who have filed Title IX complaints with the Department of Education against Columbia,” cases which the feds may or may not end up investigating.

“Your new policies are a step in the right direction, but they still suck,” said Sulkowicz, though Bollinger was not present.

Here’s what the students are asking for, according to DNAinfo:

Student activists want more involvement in crafting policies and have called for those policies to be formally reviewed every two years. They have also requested ongoing bystander training for all students — at least once every semester — that would educate people on how to intervene if a sexual assault may be happening or has the potential to occur.

Although Columbia’s administrators may not be pleased, the artist community seemed to be impressed by Sulkowicz, a visual art major who is submitting the mattress project as her senior thesis. ArtNet’s Ben Davis called the mattress piece one of the most important artworks of the year and the queen of performance art, Marina Abramovic, has expressed her admiration as well.

(Photo: Huffpo College)