Columbia Rape Survivor Graduates — Still Carrying Her Mattress

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images.
Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia student who has spent the year carrying a mattress as an act of protests against her sexual assault and the school's failure to adequately deal with it, arrived at graduation with the bed in tow. Columbia had initially said that large objects would not be allowed into the tents for graduation, according to the Columbia Spectator, but the school eventually relented. Photos taken by Teo Arnus of the Spectator show fellow students helping Sulkowicz, just as they have all year. 
Sulkowicz's senior art project was to carry the mattress with her everywhere until either she or her alleged rapist left campus, and as she nears its end, her experience should be an artistic and political inspiration to other survivors and activists. But, it's also only one part of a much larger debate.
During a year when rape culture and sexual harassment on college campuses was one of the most widely debated issues in higher education, Sulkowicz became an icon of the discussion and one of the country's most visible survivors of sexual assault. More than 100 schools, including Columbia, are under federal investigation over their handling of sexual assault cases.
Schools are still torn over how to follow federal law, which requires them to investigate reports of sexual assault, while also respecting the rights of people who report assaults and those who are accused of committing it. That's true in Sulkowicz' case; the man who she reported for assault is now suing the university for violating his rights.