Emma Sulkowicz is a senior at Columbia University this year, and she is carrying her mattress everywhere she goes. Why? It’s where she was raped sophomore year, and the rapist still remains on campus.
Sulkowicz later reported the incident to Columbia, along with three other girls who had been sexually assaulted by the same man. When they found her rapist not guilty, Sulkowicz eventually filed a police report.
She lugs her mattress to every class, an act that is both her senior thesis and as a performance art piece. Sulkowicz has pledged to carry the weight of her mattress until her rapist leaves campus, either by his own volition or university action.
No one should have to carry their furniture to get their rapist off campus. It should be assumed that rapists don’t get to stay at school.
In too many cases, schools handle sexual assault cases by ignorantly blundering along. It is as if they are making it as difficult as possible for victims to obtain justice, and Sulkowicz’s experience is no exception.
Unfortunately, Columbia University is not alone in its mishandling of sexual assault cases. A list of 50-60 colleges was released cataloging schools with open Title IX sexual violence investigations.
Do schools care more about their reputation than their students? Colleges act like it’s more important to look good and sweep things under the rug than to take action and risk tarnishing a college’s reputation.
Do we really want to have a college system where students can be expelled for plagiarism, but rapists remain on campus?
It’s time for colleges to step up, take action against sexual assault, and start protecting their students. The safety of students should matter more than keeping up appearances.
In order to combat this issue, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have launched a campaign called “It’s On Us.” A highlight of this program is the particular emphasis that will be placed on the role that everyone plays to prevent sexual assault. College campuses, in particular, will be the central focus of the campaign, as nearly one in five women has been sexually assaulted at college (cdc.gov).
“We continue to ask questions like, ‘Well, what were you wearing? What did you say? What did you do?’” Biden said. “The real question is, what made him think that he had a right to do what he did?”
Hopefully, the light being shined on an issue that has been ignored for so long, and the attention garnered by Sulkowictz, will bring about the change we need.