Columbia Student Carries Mattress at Graduation in Protest of Campus Rape Case

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Emma Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia University on Tuesday carrying a mattress she’s been taking everywhere on campus for the last year as part of her visual arts thesis. The student swore to not put down the mattress until the school expelled her alleged rapist from campus.

Sulkowicz helped bring attention to a federal complaint that students levied against the school last year for failing to properly adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault. Columbia, along with over 90 other schools, is under federal investigation for violations of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination, including sexual assault, on campuses. Schools found guilty of defying the law could lose federal funding.

In an interview with TIME last year, Sulkowicz said that she was raped during her sophomore year. She and two other woman all reported the same attacker to the university. All three cases were dismissed. “During my hearing, one panelist kept asking me how it was physically possible for anal rape to happen,” she said. “I was put in the horrible position of trying to explain how this terrible thing happened to me.”

The man who allegedly assaulted Sulkowicz, also a senior, is still on campus. He is currently suing the school and Sulkowicz’s thesis advisor for making his name public.

Following an email from the university forbidding “large objects” in the graduation procession, it looked like Columbia might block Sulkowicz for carrying the mattress, according to the Columbia Spectator. But students tweeted pictures of the young artist carrying her mattress in her cap and gown to confirm she was allowed to finish her undergraduate thesis.

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