Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia student who has been carrying around a mattress all year to raise awareness of sexual assault, graduated on Tuesday, May 19 — with her mattress in tow.
According to reports, the audience applauded and cheered while Sulkowicz made her way across the stage.
The visual arts major, who claims she was raped on her first day of school sophomore year, carried the mattress around as part of her senior thesis, titled “Carry That Weight.” Sulkowicz’s case against her alleged abuser was dropped and he was allowed to remain enrolled at the school, so in response, Sulkowicz explained that she would carry the mattress around for as long as she attended the same school.
After her story went viral, the student she accused, Paul Nungesser, filed a harassment and defamation suit against Columbia, claiming her thesis “resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning…learning and living environment."
Although the school warned students against bringing large objects to graduation, Sulkowicz was allowed to walk with her mattress. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who gave the commencement speech, even gave her a shoutout, telling the crowd: "You've held contrary opinions, held die-ins and sit-ins, carried mattresses…Never stop being academics, and never stop being activists."
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