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Carry That Weight Protests Fine

"Stop punishing survivors and activists.  Be the leader on our side!"

“Stop punishing survivors and activists. Be the leader on our side!”

This morning, student members of the Carry That Weight campaign delivered a mattress to PrezBo’s office in protest of the $471 fine they were charged after the Day of Action on October 29, when 28 mattresses were left on PrezBo’s doorstep.  The mattress was designed to look like a mock check made out to PrezBo and was delivered along with a statement read by a member of Columbia Carry That Weight.

Although Carry That Weight will pay the fine, their statement criticizes PrezBo for his lack of response to the Carry That Weight campaign and argues that their $471, rather than paying the maintenance workers who dealt with the 28 mattresses, will “go into the bank account of a University that has silenced [them].”  As a final message, the letter calls on PrezBo to “be courageous” and to work with activists to make the campus “safe for everyone.”

Dear President Bollinger,

On October 29th, hundreds of students gathered in the pouring rain to protest Columbia University’s treatment of survivors of sexual and dating violence. Student activists and survivors organized the rally with Carry That Weight, an organization committed to ending violence on campuses. We marched with mattresses to your house, chanting “Rape culture is contagious, come on Prezbo, be courageous!” We left 28 mattresses on your doorstep, representing the 28 students who filed a Title IX complaint against Columbia, and delivered a list of 10 demands. After months of inaction, we hoped you would take this opportunity to finally step up and address our urgent concerns.

Instead, you threw our mattresses in a dumpster and slapped us with a fine for $471. The mattresses are a symbol of the burdens that survivors struggle to carry with them each day on this campus. This response makes your priorities abundantly clear: You value the reputation of this institution over the safety of your students, and would rather throw out survivors’ pain than acknowledge the harm your administration has caused. President Bollinger, you are making us pay for the trauma that we have endured. This is reprehensible.

Survivors and activists in our community have been calling on you to effectively prevent and respond to sexual and domestic violence for over a year. On April 24th, 2014, 23 students filed a Title IX complaint against this University. In August, 5 more student survivors joined the complaint. Also in August, you released a new Gender-Based Misconduct policy without any student input and ignored the  policy proposals we wrote at your request. Since then, Emma Sulkowicz’s senior thesis Mattress Project: Carry That Weight has called national attention to the injustices survivors have been forced to carry alone for too long. You have not responded once to this piece, and her serial rapist remains on campus today. Your administration is still punishing students who commit rape and abuse with merely a slap on the wrist, and failing to provide survivors with the protections and support we need. Our goal is and always has been to work with your office to address these critical concerns. However, if you continue to ignore our needs and retaliate against us for speaking out, students on this campus will remain unsafe, and this conflict will continue to escalate.

Today, we will pay the fine your administration has tried to minimize as a “clean up charge.” But let’s be clear: If this fine went to support the maintenance workers who, under your instruction, did have to carry the 28 mattresses to a dumpster, we would readily pay them. This money will not go to those individuals. (And this is not the first time you have tried to hide behind University workers for your administration’s mishandling of sexual assault.) This is not a clean-up fee, but a punishment for speaking out–and it will go into the bank account of a University that has silenced us.

We dragged our mattresses to your home in an act of desperation: We do not feel safe on this campus, and we fear for the students that come after us. There are rapists in our dorms, our dining halls, our libraries. There are survivors dropping out of school because no one is there to support them. We call on you to take immediate action: engage directly and meaningfully with students, and take our demands seriously. When students on this campus are unsafe, we need a President who will take action. When students demand to be heard, we need a President who responds. When the community is in crisis, we need a President who leads. It is time you listen to us and help us make this community safe for everyone. Be courageous President Bollinger, your students need you.

Sincerely,

The Columbia students of the Carry That Weight campaign

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24 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous >Today, we will pay the fine your administration has tried to minimize as a “clean up charge.” But let’s be clear: If this fine went to support the maintenance workers who, under your instruction, did have to carry the 28 mattresses to a dumpster, we would readily pay them. This money will not go to those individuals. (And this is not the first time you have tried to hide behind University workers for your administration’s mishandling of sexual assault.) This is not a clean-up fee, but a punishment for speaking out–and it will go into the bank account of a University that has silenced us.

    I feel like implying things are consistently conspiratorial is not a conducive method of getting a message across, but I dunno.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous but if they don’t believe there’s a conspiracy, it’d be hard for them to justify not wanting to pay a fine that any other organized, identifiable group that did a similar thing would also face (in theory) :\

    2. Anonamoose says:

      @Anonamoose Of course the money’s not going to go directly to the maintenance workers. It’s not like they get paid for each light they replace or each heater they fix. But I sure as hell would have to pay a fine if I broke all the lights in my hallway.

    3. CC15 says:

      @CC15 No, the money does not go straight to the workers — because , like all workers, they get paid a set amount of money for doing their job no matter if that job is carting mattresses or cleaning bathrooms. Instead, it goes to Facilities in general, to compensate for the opportunity cost of having to pay workers to both cart away mattresses AND do all the normal jobs of cleaning, changing lights, etc.

      Facilities workers work hard every day to take care of this campus, and if they’re busy cleaning up your mattresses, then more people have to be paid to take care of everything else. Stop trying to act like this is an attempt to stifle free speech. It’s just plain old good sense.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous $471 is not that much for an entire organization to have a temper tantrum about. Why don’t you just ask Emma Sulkowicz to make rounds on the morning shows. I’m sure she’ll make more than enough to let you guys put your mattresses on Prezbo’s doorstep every night. Heck, you could probably even sleep there.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous To be clear, this comment is a joke, but then again apparently when you make a joke you get locked out of Barnard and then demonized in multiple op-eds like a leper.

  • lol says:

    @lol Is this a joke? If you leave 28 mattresses on campus, you pay the cleanup fee. It’s really as simple as that

  • senior glad to be done says:

    @senior glad to be done CTW, you are not the first or the last student group to be fined for trash. I understand you think the activism you are doing is more important than the work of other groups, and I agree – but ultimately policy is not decided by what’s “important” or friendly to the university, it’s decided by the cost of cleanup.

    Having to clean up the mattresses DID cost the university (specifically, facilities) money/time/labor. Who knows if it cost exactly that amount but there’s overhead and the idea that a higher fine dissuades people from doing things in the first place. I’m sure you agree that student groups shouldn’t make a habit of leaving shit around for facilities to deal with, so why do you get special treatment?

    1. senior glad to be done says:

      @senior glad to be done And if you pretend to be surprised when you get fined for this one, too, don’t pretend that it’s someone out to get you. You’re losing sympathy for shit like this.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Not as if anyone ever had to pay for the Holi cleanup every year… You get the idea

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Holi and Carry That Weight are not the same.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Yeah right the Holi powder took two days of high-pressure hosing… just sayin’

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Dr King filled the jails toward concrete goals, now people “want justice” and go to the event where there’s no security instead of the one they avowedly had a beef with. Greenpeace defaces two World Heritage sites and then agrees to face sentencing “if it seems fair” as if they have diplomatic immunity, instead of simply owning up and protesting more from jail. NRT gets fined from the Prez’s office, and they show up looking like the weirdest Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize-patrol ever.

    Well, if they so chose, they could have refused to pay, and see if the university would pursue them over it (at worst, to small-claims court and a mountain of bad publicity). It is a time-honored civil disobedience tactic. But I clearly dont get how performance-art based protest is supposed to work, so it’s probably me.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Back of the envelope calculation:

    A basic twin mattress costs at least $57 (based on Google Shopping search results). They had 28 mattresses, so they spent at least $1,600 on this protest. $471 is nothing for them.

    Another back of the envelope calculation:

    They were charged about $17 per mattress. That’s $17 to have someone lug a mattress to the dumpster (not to mention the cost of removing trash from a much-fuller-than-usual dumpster). Why is it unreasonable to expect that cleanup would cost that much? Shouldn’t SWS want workers to be paid reasonably for cleaning up after them?

    Also, what did they expect? That PrezBo would leave a pile of soggy, filthy mattresses on his doorstep?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous The mattresses were donated.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous As was the money for the fine.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Snore.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Stop bitching. Your group abandoned mattresses, of course you’re going to pay for it. Stop trying to make every little thing more than it actually is. Keep pushing for a safer campus, but don’t wrongfully expose the university for your “benefit”

  • What a group of idiots! says:

    @What a group of idiots! Of course you have to pay! Your tantrum shows how irrational you are. You think you’re doing something worthy? Really? You’re not acting like responsible grownup people. You’re kids! You dumped 28 mattress! For what? Do you think of where those mattresses are going to end up? What about the environment, you bunch of ignorants! All you wanted was publicity! Your miserable looking faces on the covers of magazines. There is nothing you can say that can convince me this is not true.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Well don’t you sound like a peach.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Trying to be kind here… the mattresses shouldn’t be the point.

    Having a big chunk of the NRT statement be “those mattresses were of great emotional importance to us, and we left them and you THREW THEM OUT!” is… kind of going off the main topic.

    To put it gently… what was Bollinger supposed to do with them? Leave them there? Put them in storage? Take them to his office? Stack them, put a clue between two of bottom ones, lie on top and see if he could feel it (Thus proving he is the True Prez)?

    It’s dwelling on the detail rather than the overall problem.

    Also, looking back- NRT has (beneficially, imo) got a LOT of attention. There’s a “brava” in order for how well the word NRT’s got the word out… so in what sense has there been any silencing?

  • Incidentally... says:

    @Incidentally... Per Spectrum…

    “The fine was paid for by UltraViolet, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a new and rapidly growing community of women and men across the U.S. mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.”

    So, there’s that.

  • FirePower says:

    @FirePower I’m sure they think that the stunt was clever, but if I remember properly, according to university statistics (which they clamored for to prove that there was a rape culture on campus), there were only 4 reported sexual assaults last year, and 2 of those had been retracted. This is not the 25% rate that they claim exists.

    There is no rape culture on this campus. There is no incidence of mass rape. What they want is for anybody to be kicked out after a mere accusation with no proof whatsoever, and their justification is that the university is a private institution and can do as it pleases. That’s the same tactic that Stalin and Mao used to send innocents to gulags and death camps. That is not justice. The whole point of this is to increase the education gap between men and women by kicking even more men out of college (look this up if you don’t believe me: in this country and in most other countries worldwide, including Middle Eastern countries like Iran, women dominate higher education).

    1. l8r h8r says:

      @l8r h8r i started to reply to your comment w facts but then i finished reading it and realized there’s no way someone so dumb actually exists and you must be a bored 11 year old troll

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