Activism Campus Violence Against Women

Columbia University Fined Student Activists for the Carry That Weight Day of Action

A student-run feminist group at Columbia University is facing up to $1,500 in fees due to a protest of campus rape and sexual assault held last week.

Emma Sulkowicz via Simple Justice
Emma Sulkowicz via Simple Justice

The Columbia Student group Carry That Weight Together garnered nationwide attention last week when they organized a national Day of Action, in which over 130 campuses from Stanford University in California to Eastern European University in Budapest, Hungary, participated.  The Day of Action was inspired by student Emma Sulkowicz, whose senior thesis titled “Carry That Weight” includes Sulkowicz carrying her mattress around campus to protest the University’s decision not to punish the student she and two other students have accused of rape.

As part of the national protest last week, Columbia students carried 28 mattresses around campus with messages of protest against rape and sexual assault, words of support for survivors, and demands for change to the University’s sexual assault policy. At the end of the protest, the mattresses were placed on Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s lawn, for which the students are now being charged with up to $1,500 in clean-up fees.

Columbia spokesperson Robert Hornsby says the fees were not unusual. “These are entirely typical matters in apportioning direct costs for facilitating student events,” he said, referring to the University’s decision to throw the mattresses into dumpsters within an hour of being placed on President Bollinger’s lawn. However, according to student and protest organizer Michela Weihl, the University’s actions held more meaning than a simple clean-up.  “The symbolism of them literally dumping the mattresses in the trash within an hour,” said Weihl, “it’s so indicative of how they handle sexual assault on this campus – they literally throw out rape cases without a second thought.”

The Carry That Weight Together group, led by Sulkowicz, continues to protest rape and sexual assault, and has been pushing their list of demands for Columbia University. The list includes improvements to the reporting process on campus, a comprehensive and recurring review of the University’s policy for handling rape and sexual assault, among other demands for making the campus safer for survivors.

The Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine will be honoring Sulkowicz and the Carry That Weight project with a Wonder Award next week for her courageous efforts to fight college rape and sexual assault. For more about the upcoming Wonder Awards Luncheon, visit our homepage.

Media Resources: Huffington Post 10/29/14, 11/6/14; Carry That Weight

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