Earlier today, hundreds of people took to Low Steps with mattresses and banners in support of survivors of sexual assault and in protest of the Columbia administration’s mishandling of the issue. The Day of Action and rally were part of the Carry That Weight campaign, a national movement started by activists at Columbia to support survivors and call for change. Over 130 universities across the nation also took part in the Day of Action.
If you somehow didn’t notice the groups of students carrying mattresses, here’s what you missed:
From the Carry That Weight Day of Action press release:
The aim of the national #carrythatweight campaign is to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence and to empower students at colleges around the country who are working to improve their school’s sexual and domestic violence response policies. As a platform for further discussion and action, the demonstration serves as an opportunity for student groups to develop concrete steps to confront rape culture on their campuses and to support survivors in their communities.
To achieve this goal, the #carrythatweight campaign has built connections with committed on-campus and nonprofit groups. In addition to partnerships with students at over 130 schools, more than 15 organizations have signed on as formal partners with the campaign. Through these partnerships, groups pledge to promote the event and hold universities accountable to an equitable adjudication process that is sensitive to survivors.
In response to the Day of Action, the Columbia administration released a statement on sexual assault policies. An excerpt from the statement is included below:
Columbia embraces its responsibility to be a leader in preventing sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct anywhere it may occur, with a special duty to protect the safety and well-being of our own students. Student activism here and around the nation has played in important role in encouraging these efforts. As a university we have made substantial new investments to further strengthen our personnel, physical resources, and policies dedicated to preventing and responding to gender based-misconduct.
We understand that reports about these cases in the media can be deeply distressing, and our hearts go out to any students who feel they have been mistreated. But galvanizing public attention on an important societal problem is very different from a public conversation about individual students and cases, which colleges and universities do not discuss—not only because of federal student privacy law, but also because it is essential that all students have confidence that they can report misconduct or access the counseling resources they need without concern that the university will ever talk about them in public.