Sep

5

Speaking With Emma Sulkowicz

Written by

Not here, not anywhere
Columbia

Oh, Columbia

Today Taylor Grasdalen met with Emma Sulkowicz to discuss her Visual Arts senior thesis and the attention it has received.

Emma Sulkowicz is exhausted. The average college dorm-issue mattress weighs fifty pounds, and she’s been carrying hers around Columbia University for four days. But she is not without help: many passersby recognize and offer to assist Emma, having seen articles from Time, New York Magazine, Al Jazeera, or any of so many other websites, appear on their Facebook news feeds or linked on Twitter.

The attention began immediately. Since fall semester classes commenced this Tuesday, Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15, has become the subject of a staggering number of news articles. Interviews inundating her schedule from that moment she began her senior thesis work — entitled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) — Emma takes a brief call before she and I begin to talk, to arrange the car that Melissa Harris-Perry’s show will be sending for her tomorrow. And although interviews and questions personal are not new to her as one of the twenty-three “complainants” filing April’s Title IX case against Columbia University — again reported by the likes of Time and The New York Times — she is still working through her own feelings about the recent onslaught.

“Right now I’m still walking around in a daze and trying to comprehend what’s happening to me. But I hope that in a few weeks I do feel some great emotional shift,” Emma tells me. I ask if she feels stronger. “Physically, I guess it’s day four now, I’ve actually started to physically get a little stronger.” Emotionally, I mean, I clarify. “…Right now though, I’m still shocked, in that it’s-become-this-big-of-a-news-item stage, and I haven’t really processed my emotions.”

I ask about her other art created while at Columbia, and learn that she’s been “trying to experiment in all different forms of mediums,” though settling to perform Carry That Weight bore unprecedented importance. “To be completely honest, this is actually the first piece I’ve ever made that wasn’t assigned to me. Every other piece has been, like, ‘make a sculpture that is monumental.’ But this is the first one where I had the idea, I called in the resources I needed, I made the phone calls to order the mattress when I needed it, and I put it all together by myself, beginning to end.”

That her first completely independent work of art would be one vested in “elements of protest” as she told The Columbia Spectator, seems to speak as much about the university in which it is being produced as it speaks about Emma’s personal artistry.

“So I’m thinking of people who have gone on hunger strikes, or the classic image of an activist chaining themself to something they care about, or I think there are lots of classic activist images that I’m playing on, except I wanted to make this one more appropriate to the work that I’m trying to create.” I tell her that I do think it’s appropriate to the college campus, with the idea of protest and sit-ins, at Columbia considering its history. And there’s the idea of chaining yourself to things, chaining yourself to a mattress.

The protest in mind, I ask if she can articulate exactly what she wants to convey to Columbia.

“Get my rapist off campus.” She says it slowly, enunciating, putting into words what her piece shows. But she laughs and atones for her gravity: “…in those few words.”

She doesn’t find it funny, obviously; she laughs, and I laugh, too, because it’s all completely ridiculous to hear, to say. I ask whether anyone from the school’s administration has contacted her, in support or address or caution.

“They have not reached out to me at all. The only interaction I’ve had with them — if you can even call it an interaction — is I saw Dean Valentini walking by me, and he…he looked, like… he was trying so hard to avoid looking at me and the piece…that he looked ridiculous. He was looking down at his feet like this,” She mimics him: she shifts in her seat, one of those smallish metal chairs in the lobby of Dodge, pushing her shoulders up to her ears and turning her face downward, feet turned inward; it’s an entirely awkward stance to picture. “So, yeah. They haven’t sent me anything, haven’t reached out.”

Columbia has not returned on commitments to better campus processes, the reason for Valentini’s — and for Emma’s sake, hopefully other administrators’ — discomfort. She continues, “The new policy that Columbia released actually makes it harder for serial rapists to be expelled than even the old policies. The way it currently stands is that if, let’s say one person rapes a number of people in the same night, they can’t show any pattern of behavior to make a harder sanction, because those cases are technically all open at the same time.

“I think they need to listen to students more. It frustrates me that No Red Tape, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, and so many other people are working our butts off to create as comprehensive a set of policy changes as we can — which we gave to the Columbia administration — but they haven’t listened to us. If they’re gonna make changes, why not listen to people who care and have thought about it and worked hard to create something that will be effective?”

Emma, as well, reported to the police. As much as her attempts to work with the New York Police Department have already been documented, she reiterates to me how disconcerting the experience has been. “The first responder told me that what happened to me was consensual because I’d had sex with him before. I have [heard from the NYPD since], but just after being mishandled by them as well, I just didn’t feel safe or comfortable talking to them anymore, and they passed the case on to the district attorney’s office, who contacted me and said it would take up to nine months or a year for it to go to court. By then I would have graduated, and if I sit around waiting for that, I’ll be missing out on other opportunities like creating this piece, or doing other work, it’ll just be a waste of my time.” In short, she has been unable to work with the NYPD.

Nonetheless, despite administrative and police inaction, Carry That Weight has been received incredibly well by the community. Columbia, at least, just seems to be the great exception. “I think it’s made me feel like it’s restoring my confidence in other people, that other people can care so deeply about the same issue that I care about.” Though she shares some “little daily scares” — both on the Internet (an email sent to her, “Mattress Girl,” letting her know that someone was “trying to get her”) and in-person (a man passing Emma on campus, telling her and the two other women helping her carry the mattress, that “I’m so tempted to just jump right on there”) — the foremost concern is the conclusion of her performance. Or at a minimum, the overarching response to its continuance.

The end of Carry That Weight would, to most, mean the disappearance of the ubiquitous mattress. To Emma, it would mean relief and success in her work, a tremendous effort to complete something she’s been working on for more than a year. It would mean, too, not the end of an incredibly broad issue, but of reaching a conclusion. Meanwhile, “it’s just been kind of surreal. It’s been surreal. That’s the only word I can use.” She tells me that after graduating this spring, she hopes “to just continue making art work. I know that this is what I need to be doing, and I hope that I come up with some cool ideas later on.”

But as far as Mattress Performance — and possibly performance art at large — goes, however, she tells me her theory is that “you come up with an idea, you set it in motion, and then whatever comes after that, is sort of the life of the piece. So I don’t really, personally, have some preconceived notion of where I want the piece to go, and I just believe that wherever it ends up going, is where it was meant to end, and that’s…” She sighs. “I’m ready just to go along for the ride, I’d say.”

 Columbia’s College Walk via Wikimedia Commons.

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75 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This is why no one thinks art majors take college seriously. She literally just bought a mattress... her interpretation makes total sense - I understand that, but the fact that she isn't putting any effort into actually making some kind of art is doing a great disservice to other art majors doing a legitimate thesis.

    • Anonymous

      "The average college dorm-issue mattress weighs fifty pounds, and she’s been carrying hers around Columbia University for four days."

      "she isn't putting any effort into actually making some kind of art"

      what??? what???? what are you saying??? can you hear yourself???

      • a workout is not necessarily art

        Great effort, but it seems more like a workout than a piece of art, the way you describe it. Is she going to take on a second mattress as soon as she gets stronger?

    • googled extreme performance art  

      I think this is representative of a great performance art

      • Anon

        I want to think this whole thing is theater made up as part of the "performance art" because she's not willing to carry the torch.

        "It got transferred to the district attorney’s office, and I DECIDED I DIDN'T WANT TO PERUSE IT ANY FURTHER because they told it me it would take nine months to a year to actually go to court, which would be after I graduated and probably wanting to erase all of my memories of Columbia from my brain anyway, so I decided not to pursue it." - Emma Sulkowicz

        It was her, not the DA, who dropped this. She would have a much stronger point if she hadn't dropped her legal case.

        That's a champion for stopping campus rape? Someone who will relive her pain publicly through the national media but when someone with the power to justly help punish her rapist asks uncomfortable personal questions and says it might be shameful and six months after her graduation for a trial? You're going to suffer an unfair lifelong trauma likely your whole life but you can't wait half a year to even have a shot to bring a serial rapist to justice? How many women wish their case even made it past the initial reporting stage to the police? She just turns down that chance because is it's inconvenient? To me that's offensive.

        Progress- nor justice happens overnight, it's not always convenient. This is already likely the thing she will be most known for in her entire life and she's not going to see it all the way and try to get a serial rapist off the street? How can someone celebrate that? How can you be inspired by that? No one ever boasted about climbing halfway up Everest or forfeiting a game against an impossible opponent. Don't we celebrate the underdog who gives it all even if their loss is assured?

        How are we going to stop campus rape when people aren't even willing to be uncomfortable and suffer for a year? People fight terminal cancer for longer than this knowing their day is soon. That doesn't make it alright or fair but if a cause is truly worth fighting for it's worth dying for and "oh it might take a year so i'd rather just forget about it," doesn't even come close to the type of commitment this cause deserves and not even attempting to see this through the legal system is a gross injustice to this cause. Maybe she wouldn't lose. She took the sure fire way to win, public shaming, which still would have been an option if her case got dismissed.

        • Sexual Assault Victim  

          Thank you so much for saying this. People want to vilify anyone that doesn't consider dragging a mattress around revolutionary art but there are legitimate questions to be asked about the conversation being had about sexual assault on this campus.
          Why, for example, is her mattress getting more attention than the fact that she dropped her case? If the guy is in fact guilty of rape, she's just letting him loose to do the exact thing she's getting so much attention speaking out against.

    • real sexism

      Despite what you have been told, in the western world today almost all legal and lethal sexual discrimination is against men.
      Men are 97% of combat fatalities.
      Men pay 97% of Alimony
      Men make 94% of work suicides.
      Men make up 93% of work fatalities.
      Men make up 81% of all war deaths.
      Men lose custody in 84% of divorces.
      80% of all suicides are men.
      77% of homicide victims are men.
      89% of men will be the victim of at least one violent crime.
      Men are over twice as victimised by strangers as women.
      Men are 165% more likely to be convicted than women.
      Men get 63% longer sentences than women for the same crime.
      Court bias against men is at least 6 times bigger than racial bias.
      Males are discriminated against in school and University.
      Boys face vastly more corporal punishment than girls.
      60-80% of the homeless are men.
      At least 10% of fathers are victims of paternity fraud.
      One third of all fathers in the USA have lost custody of children, most are expected to pay for this.
      40-70% of domestic violence is against men however less than 1% of domestic violence shelter spaces are for men.
      Male fatality rates are vastly higher than women's
      Worldwide there are 107 men born for every 100 women, by age 65 there are 78 men for every 100 women, in countries like the US/UK, its even worse, with 75/76 men for every 100 women. Despite the fact that health care spending for men is nearly twice as effective. In the few countries that have a majority male population and a preference for male children like China, Sons are legally obliged to care for parents when they are older, where as daughters are not. Many other countries like India have this as a social obligation. goo.gl/iZUcJJ
      Despite all the pressures and risks facing men today support services for men are almost non existent compared to services for women. There are departments for women's issues in the White House and the UN, but none for men. This is Real Sexism.

  2. This says it all  

    "The attention began immediately."

    • That's right.

      I think people seriously need to rethink the myth that nobody is listening to rape victims. This has gone viral across the globe, and she didn't even need a grain of proof. She gets tremendous support, has become a hero and there is no trace of even slightly critical reporting in the media.

  3. Skeptic

    ... "'it would take up to nine months or a year for it to go to court. By then I would have graduated, and if I sit around waiting for that, I’ll be missing out on other opportunities like creating this piece, or doing other work, it’ll just be a waste of my time.' In short, she has been unable to work with the NYPD."

    Apparently Emma thinks that it would be a waste of her time to cooperate in the prosecution of a rapist. She has far more important things to do, like create an art project about how no one wants to bring justice to rapists. It looks like the only person impeding the judicial process is her. But, I suppose that while being a responsible citizen and testifying against a criminal might actually result in some action being taken, it won't get you meetings with senators and articles in Time Magazine.

    • skeptic2

      Couldn't have said it any better myself.

    • kiddo2.0  

      Yeah its not like they are purposely waiting to prosecute her case, D.A. offices are backed up for typically a year. If a student had been murdered on campus the same time frame for prosecution would be there. She is doing a disservice to those women who will be harassed by this guy in the future by not following through with the police.

    • Florence

      I totally agree! I smell a rat!

      • Anonymous

        By the time the trial even went through she would have graduated feeling unsafe and who knows what kind of effect that can have on her. I know if something like that happened to me I'd want to forget about it. Having to occupy yourself with what would probably be one of the most horrific experiences of your life during a time that you're applying to grad school, looking for job offers, trying to get yourself ready to enter true adulthood, just trying to live out the next stage of your life? Not wanting to deal with it is a totally understandable and rational thing. Maybe she just wants to get over that and move on and it sounds like her art piece is helping her do that. And oh no, poor Columbia. An institution that had an 8+ billion dollar endowment last fiscal year. Such a bad thing that it has a PR scandal that might sully it's financial support when multiple women who attend this fucking school have literally been forced against their will to have sex! Some of whom have all pointed to the same assaulter.

        • dfd  

          You can defend her all you want, but if she is unwilling to take the time to try and take this rapist off the streets and protect others from having the same traumatic experience if this person is indeed guilty then she shouldn't be putting on this spectacle either. She is being hypocritical protesting columbia's unwillingness to take action against her rapist, while at the same time refusing herself to take action against her rapist.

          • Anonymous

            Why does the victim have the responsibility to keep him, "off the streets," as you put it? Why is she to be blamed for the menace he poses, rather than him?

            The assault in question didn't take place on the streets, either. It took place on campus, in her bed, in a place governed by Columbia's rules. Given Columbia 's problematic internal processes, which she DID pursue, this is a fully valid protest response.

        • Anonymous

          I'm sorry, that isn't what she doing, she's not trying to leave it behind, she's made a performance art piece out of it. So if her reason for not pursuing charges is to leave it behind, then why isn't she leaving it behind? Because that's not what she wants to do.

          Look, we have courts and police for a reason: justice. If the alleged rapist is guilty, then let's put him in prison. And yes, if someone has raped you, then you have to file charges if you want them to be punished, that's how our system works. If you don't file charges, then you're not going to get justice.

    • but really  

      surely you recognize that for someone both studying performance art, and interested in spreading awareness about rape culture, this is much more effective in getting a job at graduation and communicating a message than the legal process.

  4. Anonymous

    What is she expecting to happen? The administration already went through the judicial process with the defendant and came to a decision. Whether you agree with the decision or not (or whether it was the correct one) is another issue, but they can't try him again for the same offense. And as one commenter noted, she declined to continue with an actual criminal prosecution. Does she expect her rapist to just forfeit a Columbia degree of his own volition so she doesn't have to carry around a mattress? That's not how the world works.

    In any case, kudos to her for figuring out a way to launch an artistic career from being raped. She has gotten more out of this terrible experience than most could ever hope for.

  5. Florence

    At that point, what she's doing has nothing to do with the legal system - she'sjust shaming the entire system until someone gives into her demands. That's not how it works. If there's not enough evidence to accuse someone of the crime, if the court turns it down, then you can't convict them. Period.
    It's not the court being "blind to rape victims," it's that it's "better to let 10 guilty people escape than to let one innocent suffer" - an established part of our legal system.
    In the end, I whole-heartedly agree that rape is a horrible thing that we need to find a solution to. I just don't think that the solution lies in making it acceptable to accuse people without evidence - rape or otherwise.

  6. Sonya

    Man, isn't she a phony! But I guess it's hard for her to take back what she's said/claimed. It's been blown out of proportion and she is hurting so many, many people by doing this. This is not helping her, the Columbia community, REAL rape victims.... It's all big mess. I hope both she and the innocent guy find peace sometime soon. This is insane.

  7. trollinthebuilding-harrypotter

    all I can say is, she's about to be carrying that mattress for a longass time. and the second I see her NOT carrying that mattress I will be thinking and yelling out "bulls&$t"!

    also, she just put Deantini on full blast. Talk about a PR nightmare...not that it matters, because Columbia's name is just being dragged through the dirt yet again.

    regardless, I wish both involved parties the best. whatever that may be

  8. Calling Florence/Sonya out

    I like how currently a third of the comments have all been written by the same person, all trying to shame Emma. ~~Track the comments~~

    • Sonia/Florence

      That's right - that's all me and I am shaming Emma (and feeling sorry for her at the same time) for falsely accusing a guy 2 years after the alleged incident. I am shaming her for not filing charges when she was able to prove something. I am shaming her for paralyzing social life at Columbia with her bullshit game. I am shaming all of you who are supporting her unconditionally and calling for this guy's imprisonment, and for succumbing to group-think, and not having a shed of a doubt that maybe, just maybe she may not be telling the whole truth. I am shaming all of you because you are helping this get out of proportion and for not helping real victims of sexual violence who will now more than ever (seeing all the publicity that this has gotten) want to remain in the shadow. I would support her if she went out and pursued this with the DA, and it was suggested. But that's 9 months down the line, and she doesn't want that. But she waited two years to report the crime when all the evidence disappeared. So why should we believe her word? Don;t you believe in due process? What if you're accused of something and the accuser wants the world to believe their word alone?

  9. Anonymous

    By the time the trial even went through she would have graduated feeling unsafe and who knows what kind of effect that can have on her. I know if something like that happened to me I'd want to forget about it. Having to occupy yourself with what would probably be one of the most horrific experiences of your life during a time that you're applying to grad school, looking for job offers, trying to get yourself ready to enter true adulthood, just trying to live out the next stage of your life? Not wanting to deal with it is a totally understandable and rational thing. Maybe she just wants to get over that and move on and it sounds like her art piece is helping her do that. And oh no, poor Columbia. An institution that had an 8+ billion dollar endowment last fiscal year. Such a bad thing that it has a PR scandal that might sully it's financial support when multiple women who attend this school have literally been forced against their will to have sex! Some of whom have all pointed to the same assaulter!

    • Anonymous  

      Yeah, she just wants to move on and stop talking about it already! Now let her get into the limo service that's taking her to the hundredth MSNBC interview about the whole ordeal!

      • Alum '14

        Yeah, fuck her for trying to bring more attention to and facilitate substantive action on the issue of campus sexual assault.

        Jesus, some of these comments made me seethe with rage.

        • Anonymous

          If only we had this impartial third party we could go to investigate these crimes, and another impartial third party to oversee the prosecution of these crimes, and another impartial third party to determine the accused guilt. If only our society had these things!

          • partial observer

            Did you not notice that the first responder told her the rape was consensual because they had sex before? Putting aside Emma's response to a traumatic event, the idea that the 'justice' system is impartial is demonstrably false. No one is demanding the suspension of due process and to pretend like that is true is a pathetic straw man. The point is to end the administration's conflicts of interest (like Deans concerned with the school's image conducting investigations) and to end the statistically verifiable rape culture on campus. Some people reserve all their criticism for survivors and don't even consider how systems of power can undermine justice... Maybe because they benefit from injustice?

  10. BLANK

    Well she seems to have no problem bar hopping in Morningside without her mattress and without very much clothing on....

    • pitchfork  

      Yeah, rape victims shouldn't be allowed to go outside, or wear shorts! They should stay sequestered in their rooms wearing all of their clothing so they can think about what they've done!

    • In seriousness, though...  

      1. From what I understand, the rules of the art piece are that she has to take the mattress with her to classes and on-campus appointments. Not actually *everywhere*. Like, if she wants to go to Westside for groceries, she can, sans-mattress.
      2. If Emma wants to go to bars, she damn well can, you asshole. She's a grown up. Hell, she's 21, which is more than most of those kids in the Heights can say.
      3. She can also wear anything she fucking pleases. Wearing a short skirt doesn't change the fact that she has felt violated and silenced. It detracts nothing from her experiences, argument, art piece, or personal worth. Maybe we ought to stop judging people's moral character by what they choose to wear. (Also, it is goddamn hot out there. *Everyone* is wearing fewer clothes than usual.)


      If anything, I imagine it takes tremendous courage for her just to get out of her bed every morning. Good for her if she can have fun like a normal college student.

  11. Anonymous  

    It could be such a let down for many of us if the "bar hopping" comment is true.

  12. Anonymous

    It's pretty worrying how eager some people are to throw out due process when the accusation being made is sufficiently emotional.

    At this point we don't know that Emma was raped. Many people may decide to believe she was, but it's certainly not proven. Rape accusations, like any other criminal case, require evidence. Emma failed to report a felony to the police (the only party here sufficiently trained/equipped to properly investigate a felony) in a reasonable period of time. The incident allegedly happened in 2012 but her police report was filed 4 months ago before summer break. Any physical evidence is long gone. Witness accounts have been irreparably contaminated by the sensationalism and time since the incident occurred. Rape cases are hard enough to prosecute, but in this situation it's impossible. Emma's case flat out fails to establish probable cause to make an arrest of her alleged attacker. A trial would never be able to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in this case. Victims have rights but so does the accused. We can't throw out due process just because we don't like the outcome in this case. That's not how the system works.

    To me it seems like a lot of this case is juvenilee idealism versus reality. This issue would be so much simpler if the big bad Columbia administrators were acting unjustly to protect the school's rep and buffoon NYPD was making a mess of things because of departmental incompetence. Those would be clear shortcomings, and shortcomings like those can be fixed. The reality though is that things aren't broken, the system worked exactly as it's supposed to. We as a society believe that it's better to let a guilty man go than punish an innocent one. In this case there's insufficient evidence to prove the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At that point it's all stop. We can't jail him, we can't throw him off campus, we can't brand him a rapist. Some people here need to stop throwing a temper tantrum and grow up: Part of being an adult is respecting well reasoned decisions even if you don't personally like them.

    If Emma was the victim of sexual assault then she has my most sincere sympathies. Whatever the case, I wish her the best moving forward. This campaign around her needs to stop though. It's crossing the line from protest to defamation of character.

    • Anonymous

      Correction: we as a society believe it's better to let a guilty WHITE man go than to punish an innocent one.

      Don't forget this privilege doesn't exist across all demographics. For example, we believe in arresting 50% of all black people in order to prevent the crime he maybe could've don't potentially.

    • In all societies

      where due process doesn't exist or was thrown over board, the silent bystanders are next in line and very often some of the loudest supporters of it fall victim to arbitrary punishment sooner or later.
      #stand4dueprocess

  13. Jess

    Interesting fact: The other 2 assault complaints were NOT for rape (despite what all media sources are claiming. One was the suspect's ex girfriend who claimed he emotionally abused her, and the other complaint was that the same guy grabbed and attempt to kiss another girl.

    http://bwog.com/2014/01/23/accessible-prompt-and-equitable-an-examination-of-sexual-assault-at-columbia/

    We still have not heard the accused offender's side of the story. I am not saying Sulkowicz is lying. But the media is clearly starting a witch hunt.

  14. WTF

    She was partying last night and she didn't have her mattress!!! How lame.

  15. Jess

    Interesting fact: The other 2 "sexual assault" complaints were NOT about rape. One was from an ex girlfriend of the alleged offender, who claim he emotionally abused her. The other complaint was that the same guy grabbed and attempted to kiss another student.

    Google this article
    “Accessible, Prompt, and Equitable”? An Examination of Sexual Assault at Columbia

    We still haven't heard the suspected offender's side of the story. I'm not claiming that Sulkowicz is lying. But the media is creating a witch hunt.

  16. Anonymous

    To everyone saying she is selfish and cowardly for not focussing all her effort into a trial, you are saying this because you WANT to see her fail. You know nothing will come of s trial since the nypd literally told her she was bullsh*tting and they didn't believe her. You know she doesn't have evidence to dissuade unreasonable doubt. You know the accused comes from an incredible wealthy family and that money wins trials.

    Emma's objective isn't personal justice or to see her rapist in jail. She wants a safer campus. If you believe, based on substantial personal experience, that someone who has raped you is is a serial rapist and will continue to harm others on campus , you will do what you can to bring awareness to the issue so he, and others like him, can stop feeling invincible. Emma has whole heatedly admitted she will probably be carrying that mattress across the stage at graduation. But her work has brought a lot of attention to the issue, has probably made her accused a lot more careful, and has probably convinced a handful of guy (/girls) to beg for affirmative consent instead of assuming silence (or in the case of Emma, screaming "NO") meant their partner was into it. This is progress. And ultimately the accused will probably leave with a few scratches but no permanent conviction that follows him through life (don't worry, he'll get plenty laid once he leaves Columbia --and I'm sure he'll be extra careful too). Honestly that sounds like a pretty effective form of activism.

    Remember that this mattress represents the constant intimate burden that Emma has to carry around all the time and pervades all aspects of her life. If you are upset about this reminder, try stepping into the shoes of a survivor and have some empathy; the real burden is much worse.

    • Anonymous  

      "You know the accused comes from an incredible wealthy family and that money wins trials."

      Uhh Emma went to The Dalton School, it's not like she's actually at that much of a disadvantage financially compared to the accused.

      • Anonymous  

        You shouldn't assume she's incredibly wealthy because she went to a prep school. I went to a prestigious prep school on 80% financial aid and I'm on financial aid here as well. If I were in Emma's situation, I would not be able to afford a trial.

      • Now, who is rich?

        read:
        http://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-private-schools-2011-4?op=1
        Dalton School is number 25, Day student tuition in 2011: $35,300

        She’s from a very influential Manhattan family with contacts to Senators and news media, they are donors to CU as well.

        If I were Columbia and wanted to bow to influence and wealth, I would have kicked out this guy the minute Emma walked into my door.

        But probably the people working at CU's Office of Gender Based Misconduct are all vicious MRAs who think that all women are sluts and deserve to be raped.

    • Anonymous  

      And tbh regardless of whether you think the accused is guilty or not (something that only he and Emma can ever really know without a doubt at this point), you can't deny the dude is gonna end up with more than "a few scratches." Spec and other publications have publicly named him... when you google his name the first page is full of links calling him out as an accused rapist. If he is indeed guilty than yeah it's probably a good thing potential employers/dates/friends will see what he's done and be wary of him at the very least, but you can't deny that this will have an enormous impact on his life.

  17. Florence

    Another shit-for-brains member of the newest adult generation.

    Which is the biggest indicator of her stupidity?

    1. Choice of major. Yeah, honey, you'll go far with a B.A. in Visual Arts. Or is it a B.F.A.? Even worse.

    2. Being raped and not doing anything about it for YEARS, giving all physical evidence more than ample chance to disappear. Intentional? She was scared and regained her strength after 2 yeas? I don't buy it!

    3. An IVY league student (assuming VERY BRIGHT!) thinking that the university has the ability to investigate a crime properly, or the authority to prosecute it properly. They don't. May I introduce you to the police, and the courts? No? She doesn't want that because they'd throw her allegations as false. (as they did) She would rather blame them and say they are against her because she's a woman.

    4. Thinking that this mattress stunt will make a difference. It won't do anything but inconvenience her and make her look like a loon, as the press records her every move.

    BTW, Columbia should be ashamed of itself for allowing this as a senior thesis. This is not scholarship. This is the demented whining of a self-absorbed academic lightweigt.

  18. ES

    "Physically, I guess it’s day four now, I’ve actually started to physically get a little stronger.”

    If nothing else at least the project is improving her body.

  19. Anonymous

    It's taken three weeks to write a ten page paper, how did Emma manage to start a goddam revolution in four days?

  20. bewildered

    pitchfork = in seriousness, though, talking to him/herself - hit the track button!

  21. bewildered

    I think it is very powerful, but it's not art. It's easy to understand, it's easy to react to, provides instant benefit (makes you feel good, if you carry the mattress, because you help a person in need), it's not controversial (who would disagree that having been raped is a heavy burden). It does not irritate, it does not question anything. It's not art, it's publicity at best and propaganda at worst. Depends on whether her claims are true, which I doubt.

    • bewildered again

      By the way: Can anyone explain to me what the difference is between asking for help and repeating over and over again on national TV and print media that you're not allowed to ask for help but you are allowed to accept help?
      I almost feel coerced to help her...

  22. oy  

    a lot of you seem to think that our criminal justice system is flawless. reporting to the police does not automatically mean justice. and doing something constructive while you wait for the prosecutor to get on your case does not mean that you aren't still going to work with them - don't know if she is, but i don't know that she isn't

    many of these comments show that there are lot of people feeling threatened on this campus. threatened by what? a girl carrying around a mattress? probably not. more likely you are threatened by the truth that this institution wasn't all that the admissions office promised and that our criminal justice system has a lot of flaws. or that more people will report their sexual assaults.

    either way, sucks for you.

    • Anonymous  

      But her statements certainly don't make it seem as though she's "waiting for the prosecutor to get on the case"-- all the info we've been given so far seems to indicate that she has dropped the case/stopped working with the NYPD entirely. The criminal justice system certainly isn't flawless, true, but there's certainly no way for the system to help her cause if she refuses to take the issue to court (which, as she says herself, is a process that takes time).

  23. Attacking the wrong problem  

    "Get my rapist off campus" isn't that simple. This man was proven innocent by the Columbia judicial system. Why? Because when you report a rape 8 months after it occurs, the problem becomes that there is no longer any evidence to look at. The most the university can go on is "her words versus his." Even if she went straight to the police after 8 months, they would have told her the same thing: "You're not giving us anything. What are we supposed to do?"

    I'm not blaming her for not saying anything earlier. It was a traumatic experience (trust me, I know first hand) and she has the right to process it. But unfortunately waiting that long and then deciding that you want to bring your rapist to justice doesn't work in your favor. Too much time has gone by. There's not much anyone can do.

    Do the panelists that review these claims need to be trained better? Yes. Do there need to be measures taken in which Emma should feel protected from the person she's accusing of rape and not like she's waiting for a trigger at any moment? Yes. Do we need to evaluate whether universities should be handling these cases in the first place? Yes.

    Did the university make the wrong call? Honestly, no. There wasn't enough evidence. That's all it boiled down to. It's incredibly unfortunate, and I empathize with her because I do believe her. But it's innocent until proven guilty. And there's reasonable doubt that this rape occurred. That's our US justice system.

  24. AmericanDreamer

    I think a lot of people posting comments on these pages are missing the point of Emma's protest.
    She is protesting the fact that women who are victims of rape and sexual assault on her collegel campus are treated as if they are "invisible". Their claims are swept under the rug in grossly negligent proceedings that should never have been held at a university because of their conflict of interest in protecting their image.
    By carrying the mattress Emma is forcing the university and equally importantly the faculty and other students to recognize what happened with her and discuss this issue
    As for her alleged assailant he was accused of attacking two other women.
    The school newspaper published his name because they felt alleged attacks on three women was sufficient basis to protect other women.
    Also just as an aside a lawsuit against a college student majoring in visual studies isnt going to earn you any money.

    • no

      she is doing it, so the guy she accuses with no evidence is kicked off campus. that's what she is saying over and and over again.
      Columbia Spectator published his name, because

      a) the editor in chief and the managing editor are friends with Emma (at least that is what their Facebook page reveals)

      b) a bunch of scared no red tapers ran to them and each one said "I heard it, too. It's true, it's true, it's true".

      c) they "feel", they "believe", but they don't have got any real evidence nor did they do any crosschecking for the allegations. But wtf! They feel good afterwards because, they "believe it is necessary to include his name."

      d) They feel even better, when Emma posts:
      "Thank you, Columbia Daily Spectator. I am at a loss for words once again."

      Now, that's what I call heavyweight independent investigative journalism!
      CU admins: These people should have their work recognized as a senior thesis, too!

  25. American Dreamer

    Seems to me that Emma's work would have been better presented as an effort to force the university and its students to address the issue of rape and sexual assault on campus instead of sweeping it under the rug and making its victims invisible instead of directly calling for her alleged attacker to be expelled as she already went through all possible channels to have him brought to justice and lost in part because of the passage of time before bringing the charges.
    By dragging her mattress across campus she refuses to be invisible and forces the university and its students into a constructive dialogue on this issue.
    She should be focusing her protest on the failure to receive a fair hearing and to be treated fairly instead of the end result which is to have her attacker expelled (who I understand is studying abroad this year anyway).
    I think her action is a very effective tool at forcing the issue upon the university and its students as demonstrated by the national and international attention it has brought.
    As for all of the people claiming she is at risk of being sued for defamation or slander that is patently false. That would require the accused to bring an action in court where the caes would turn on whether she was in fact raped and he is never going to be able to prove she wasn't raped in a civil court I can assure you as a civil court lawyer. That question doesnt turn on whether the campus authorities or the police dropped her case. It would have to be examined again in the civil court.

    • is this irony?

      WAIT HE'S NOT ACTUALLY ON CAMPUS IN THE FIRST PLACE???


      HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAH

      HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHA

      AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAAH

      aha

      AHAHHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH

  26. ughhaksjhfkjlsdhf  

    STOP THE VICTIM-BLAMING COMMENTS PLZ it is outrageous.

    • caroline

      who are the victims you're talking about? who gets to call victims "victims" and brand people "rapists". No one is blaming real victims but something tells us that we smell a rat in the latest Columbia rape hysteria. You are a part of it.

  27. the morning after

    How many men have sex in alcoholic circumstances that they would not choose to if sober with females they would not choose if they were sober. I have seen this happen. Yet men do not have the privilege of turning the morning after regret into a law suit. The stupid idiot the night before transforms into the innocent victim the morning after in a Cinderella type transformation. That privilege is reserved for women alone. THAT is sexism.

  28. Florence/Sonia

    After reading E. S' story, I have even LESS respect for her. The standard of proof for the Columbia internal process is preponderance. She couldn’t even convince the internal investigator that it was more likely than not, and she wants Columbia to dismiss some one from campus based on her word?

    She went to the police a YEAR and a half later, and expects them to do something about it? Not a chance!!! Further, she might, maybe, have an assault claim. After reading her story, she might have been able to make an Assault Family Violence charge stick if she had some marks on her and had pictures. AFV usually also covers “dating” relationships, which exist even with one hook-up. But the consent to the sexual activity is necessarily going to knock out the “rape” claim. That consent doesn’t seem to have been withdrawn until mid-act, and it seems once withdrawn, it appears HE DID STOP.

    I’ll restate: he should sue her for defamation, with each and every posting or graffiti being a separate count.

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  31. Jim

    In reviewing this and various other articles about this matter, it strikes me that the system worked exactly as it is designed to work. Rape is a terrible crime and I believe that rapists should be severely punished, but I don't see any basis to criticize the administration of Columbia University for their handling of this case.

    1. Rape, particularly date rape, is a difficult crime to prove. There are typically no witnesses (other than the accuser and the accused), there is often drugs or alcohol involved (which leads to cloudy recollections) and the victim is often shamed or embarrassed to go to the police, who will grill her for every detail, make her undergo a rape examination and other unpleasant matters..

    2. The standard of proof in a criminal matter is very high (beyond a reasonable doubt) and the potential penalty is very harsh (potentially lengthy prison sentence, having to register as "sexual crime offender", basically, his life will be ruined.)

    3. For the above reasons, Columbia and other universities have enacted a separate, non-criminal procedure for reporting date rape. Since it's a non-criminal procedure, the standard of proof is significantly lowered (i.e., based on the evidence presented, was it "more likely than not" that the incident occurred as described by the accuser) and the penalties, which might include expulsion, do not include jail time and the matter is presumably kept confidential so it doesn't follow the accused around for the rest of his life. Plus, the victim doesn't have to tell her story to hardened police officers, but (presumably) more sympathetic faculty members. These procedures are enacted to make it easier for a victim to come forward with her story.

    4. The accused in this case could have gone either route. She could have gone to the police or could have gone to the administration. She chose to do neither for six months or more.

    5. When she finally reported the matter to the administration, her story was basically that she had had consensual sex with the guy twice before, was engaged in consensual sex with the guy a third time, but it became non-consensual they he switched from vaginal intercourse to anal intercourse without her consent. She says she clearly told him "no" and to stop.

    6. Now, the story gets fuzzy at this point. It is unclear how long he continued anal sex, how forcefully she resisted, whether she yelled or screamed or tried to alert anyone else at the dorm. At some point he stopped (according to her, it was before he came) and left her room.

    7. I have not seen any interviews of the accused, but his story to Columbia appears to be that the anal sex was initially consensual (or that he at least thought it was), but that she changed her mind (probably because she didn't like it after all) and when she told him to stop he then stopped and left, apparently because she was upset with him.

    8. Now, given those two versions of events, what is Columbia supposed to do, particularly when the accuser doesn't report the incident until over six months later? Is the administration just supposed to automatically believe her story and expel the guy, or is it supposed to interview both parties, review any other evidence, and try to come with a decision based primarily upon the credibility of the two parties and their stories. I believe most of us would say the administration should do the latter, which is exactly what occurred here.

    9. And, even after the administration had found the accused "not responsible," the accuser still retained her right to go the police to press charges, which she ultimately elected not to do.

    So, again, what did the university do wrong? And what is it supposed to do now? Enact a policy whereby anyone accused of date-rape is automatically found guilty? That the credibility of the witnesses is irrelevant? That lack of any physical evidence doesn't matter? That an accuser can wait months before reporting the incident and that shouldn't factor into the administration's decision? That if two other women claim the accused is "abusive" (i.e, a jerk), then the accused MUST be found guilty of sexual assault?

    Come on! The policy of the administration must be at least as much geared towards protecting the rights of the accused as it is to make sure the rights of the accuser are protected.

    I don't know what happened that night. I wasn't there. But neither was the administration. I don't know whether the accused is guilty or not, but it sure seems to me that Columbia University is innocent.

  32. I couldn't refrain from commenting. Well written!

  33. sonia

    Mattress Piece Theater, indeed and the plot is as follows:

    You see, the mattress is Emma's cross upon which she has been crucified. She must carry her cross throughout a harsh and misunderstanding world. And in Emma's world there will be absolutely no justice until the man she accuses is railroaded off campus without a shred of evidence to support her accusations.

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