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May 20 2015

Annals of Ivy League Cowardice: Columbia Let Emma Sulkowicz Tote That Mattress to Graduation

Charlotte Allen

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Hasn't Emma Sulkowicz finished that mattress-toting senior-class "art" project of hers by now already?

and:

Isn't Columbia University supposed to enforce its rules governing student contract?

Because on Tuesday, smack in the middle of Columbia's commencement ceremonies for its graduating class of 2015, there was Sulkowicz with her mattress in the diploma line--even though Columbia had sent the following e-mail directive to the graduating seniors:

Class Day and Commencement are community-wide ceremonial events of shared celebration and mutual respect of all class members. Everyone who attends—especially graduating students, their families and friends—participate with a well-founded expectation that they will enjoy what is one of life’s more meaningful milestones.

Columbia has always sought to balance its overarching commitment to free expression on ideas and public issues with the legitimate interest in ensuring that graduation ceremonies proceed in a way that fulfills their intended purpose, mindful of the security and comfort of all participants.

Graduates should not bring into the ceremonial area large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces shared by thousands of people. There will be safe and visible spaces both in Lerner and next to the tents where students can leave such large objects immediately before the Class Day ceremony and pick them up afterwards.

Sulkowicz, however, did not leave her "large object" in any of those "safe and visible spaces."

Instead, she and three female classmates, clad in their caps and gowns, strode boldly across the stage carrying the mattress to make their protest one more time against Columbia's refusal to expel or otherwise discipline a male classmate whom Sulkowicz said had raped her in 2012. A university administrative tribunal had found that fellow student, Paul Nungesser--who was also present at the commencement ceremonies--was "not resonsible" for the alleged sexual assault she said had occurred in her Columbia dorm room. Unhappy with the ruling, Sulkowicz persuaded an art professor at Columbia to allow her to fulfil her senior-thesis requirement by carrying her dorm mattress around campus until Columbia changed its mind. Columbia never did back down, despite gushing feminist and  mainstream-media coverage of Sulkowicz and her "art."

But when it came time for Columbia to tell Sulkowicz to give it a rest, in consideration of all the other graduating students and their parents who were on campus to celebrate commencement, not to protest "rape culture," the host of Columbia administrators present did...nada.

And when some students complained that Columbia wasn't enforcing its rules, here's what happened:

“We communicated to all students that the shared celebratory purpose of Class Day and commencement calls for mutual respect for the security and comfort of graduating students and their families in attendance,” Columbia said in a statement. “We are not going to comment on individual students; it is a day for all members of the Class of 2015. We were not going to physically block entry to graduates who are ultimately responsible for their own choices.”

So why set the rule in the first place?

Nungesser now has a lawsuit against Columbia in which he alleges that Columbia, by approving the "art" project, essentially aided and abetted Sulkowicz in a project to bully him off campus and subject him to public humiliation. (He has also released numerous e-mails from Sulkowicz to him indicating not only that their sexual encounter was consensual but that Sulkowicz maintained a friendly and even amorous relationship with him for months after the event.)

Columbia's latest action--or rather, inaction--at a public event that again exposed Nungesser to the opprobrium of his entire graduating class, their parents, many of his professors, and the media, is likely to provide still more evidence that when the Ivy League confronts the warriors of political correctness, the Ivy League almost always backs down.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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