Columbia University's 'mattress girl' carried her mattress across the graduation stage

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Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, who became internationally known as "mattress girl" after carrying her dorm-room mattress around the school's campus in protest of her alleged rapist remaining on campus, took her mattress on stage in a cap and gown on Tuesday.

According to several tweets from people present at the ceremony, Sulkowicz continued her performance-art protest at Columbia College's Class Day on Tuesday. (At Columbia, graduation festivities are broken out into two ceremonies, Class Day and commencement — Class Day is a smaller, school-specific celebration.) Columbia's student newspaper reported Monday night that language "barring large items" had been added to the day's guidelines, but Sulkowicz was apparently able to bring the mattress anyway.


Sulkowicz said last fall that she would carry the mattress in protest as long as her alleged rapist remained on campus — whether that meant a few days, or until graduation. The student who allegedly raped her and two other women was found not guilty in all three cases and allowed to remain at school, so her protest has continued.

Sulkowicz apparently did not shake Columbia President Lee Bollinger's hand at the ceremony.

The senior visual arts student penned a thesis entitled "Carry That Weight," in which she said the mattress symbolized the weight she felt she carried after allegedly being raped during her sophomore year.

According to the Columbia Spectator, Sulkowicz's alleged rapist is suing the school for violating Title IX, the law that governs campus rape cases. The student, a graduating senior who has identified himself as Paul Nungesser, has denied the allegations, and says that the university allowed Sulkowicz to break confidentiality agreements with her thesis.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.