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:
UPDATE, October 31st: After the demonstration on Low steps, participants in the Day of Action piled their mattresses outside Prezbo’s door. Last night, we received another statement from Carry That Weight demonstrators, which began:
After the Carry That Weight rally in front of Low, students piled the 28 mattresses–the mattresses representing the 28 Title IX Complainants–on PrezBo’s doorstep. Within an hour and a half, Columbia’s Administration threw the mattresses in the dumpster along with the list of demands posted to his door.
The full statement, which reiterates the list of demands, is available after the jump.
Statement from Carry That Weight demonstrators:
PrezBo, since you didn’t get a good look at the demands we conveniently posted to your door and wrote on the mattresses we placed at your doorstep, we will remind you of them:
1. Prioritize the voices of survivors and activists in the development and implementation of Gender-Based Misconduct Policy.
2. Require comprehensive and program-appropriate prevention education for all students at least once per semester that will include but not be limited to in-person workshops.
3. Remove deans from decision making roles in the disciplinary process.
4. Treat cases of sexual and domestic violence with appropriately severe sanctions.
5. Guarantee that students who need to withdraw or take a temporary leave of absence because of their experiences of sexual or domestic violence have their financial aid packages protected and are fully reimbursed for any lost tuition.
6. Institute a mandatory and comprehensive review of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy every two years which directly involves the concerns of students and survivors on campus, beginning this year.
7. Create an online evaluation form for every student who makes a formal report, and every complainant and respondent in a gender-based misconduct case to fill out after the completion of their case with the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct, the results of which must be sent to PACSA.
8. Ensure that all formal reports of violence or gender-based misconduct made against the same respondent are admissible evidence, including in concurrent cases or cases with a non-responsible finding.
9. Implement a formal accommodations system, including a written explanation regarding the approval or denial of any request.
10. The investigation and adjudication process of the sexual assault report made by Emma Sulkowicz against Jean-Paul Nungesser was grossly mishandled. An alleged serial perpetrator remains on our campus and presents an ongoing threat to the community. Given these facts, we demand you re-open this case and evaluate it under the newly revised policy.
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.