In a touching act of symbolism, Emma Sulkowicz, who gained notoriety for carrying her mattress with her every day until her alleged rapist was expelled, carried her mattress with her to her Columbia University graduation on May 19.
There'd been conflicting reports about whether or not Sulkowicz would be allowed to bring the 50lb mattress with her to graduation. On Monday, Columbia sent out an email that read, "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."
However, as the graduation kicked off the morning of May 19, tweets popped up confirming Sulkowicz had brought her mattress with her.
Carrying the mattress to graduation was not the conclusion Sulkowicz had hoped for. In a September 2014 video for the Columbia Daily Spectator, she said, "The piece could potentially take a day, or it could go on until I graduate.” But of course her goal had always been to get justice. In a September 2014 interview with MTV News, Sulkowicz also told reporter Brenna Ehrlich that the best outcome would be, "that he [her alleged rapist] would leave campus and I wouldn’t have to carry the mattress anymore."
On April 24 2015, Paul Nungesser, the young man who Sulkowicz claims raped her in August 2012, filed a Title IX lawsuit against Columbia University claiming they were complicit in the "harassment campaign" against him. “Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning learning and living environment,” reads the official lawsuit.
In response, Sulkowicz wrote an email to the Associate Press, saying, "It’s ridiculous that he would read it as a ‘bullying strategy,’ especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it’s just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?"
Another tweet confirms that Nungesser was also at Tuesday's graduation ceremony.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), or visit Rainn.org.
MTV News has reached out to Sulkowicz for comment, and will be updating this story as it develops.