Deeply Humiliating Columbia Graduation
Emma Sulkowicz has made a name for herself by carrying a 50lb mattress wherever she had to go on campus. She did this for her last year at Columbia University. Carrying the mattress around was part of her senior thesis, Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).
What prompted Sulkowicz to execute this performance art was the lack of justice and cooperation she had experienced when she reported to her school that she had been raped. A lack of evidence exonerated her accused rapist, Paul Nungesser. Sulkowicz decided she would carry the mattress until Nungesser was expelled or otherwise left the campus.
In an interview video made by TIME Magazine at the end of Sulkowicz’s junior year, she tells her story and thinks about her graduation day and how she will have to sit on the same bleachers as her accused rapist.
Fast-forward a year and that graduation day came and went. After a year of Sulkowicz carrying around the mattress she ended the mattress performance by carrying the mattress onto the stage to receive her diploma, a video of Sulkowicz and her fellow classmates walking across the stage with the mattress can be seen on NYMag.com.
Nungesser did not end up getting expelled or leaving the campus. He graduated along with Sulkowicz. At this point the whole case lacks a lot of physical evidence and both parties feel that they have been treated unjustly.
Unfortunately for Nungesser’s family, they had to endure the mattress performance art and issued a statement that the experience was, “deeply humiliating,” according to another article published by NYMag.com.
It seems that Sulkowicz and Nungesser can agree on at least one thing, both do not think that Columbia University properly handled the situation, and both feel that their college experience was tainted.
Below you will find Nungesser’s parents’ full statement:
Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family. We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to. For over two years, he had to fight false accusations and a public witch-hunt, even though Columbia and the NYPD exonerated him.
At graduation, Columbia University again broke its own rules and afforded Emma Sulkowicz a special exception. It was the second devastating experience in just a few days: last week, Columbia exhibited Emma Sulkowicz’s highly disturbing and extremely graphic drawings of our son publicly on campus.
We have come to realize that at Columbia, not all are equal before its policy. What is the point of internal investigations if their outcome is not accepted? Instead those with better connections and more influence promoted a false narrative. While they failed at their goal of bullying our son into leaving this university, they have turned his life into a nightmare.
Responsible for this nightmare is not just the woman, who received an academic degree for the attempt to shame Paul away from campus, but even more at fault is the University that conferred this degree. A university that bows to a public witch-hunt no longer deserves to be called a place of enlightenment, of intellectual and academic freedom. By failing to intervene in this injustice, Columbia ceases to be a place where critical thinking, courage and democratic practice are taught, learned and lived.
Two years ago we would have never believed that one of the world’s most prestigious universities would not only allow such harassment but explicitly support it on its campus. This has been a deeply humiliating experience. We are very proud of our son for graduating from college, but our memory of it will always be tainted by Columbia’s wrongdoing.
Karin Nungeßer & Andreas Probosch, May 20th, 2015