Columbia, stop hiding issues under the mattress

Recent events at Columbia University should act as a sign that universities everywhere need to change how they handle sexual assault cases.

Senior Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped by a classmate in her own dorm room on the first day of her sophomore year. What followed was a gross mishandling of her case by the university.

During the official hearing, which didn’t occur until seven months after the alleged assault, Sulkowicz was asked to draw a diagram of how she was anally raped. Sulkowicz also wasn’t permitted to write her own statement, but instead had to recount the events to an investigator, who she said wrote erroneous notes that were later sent to the administration for review.

Two other women stepped forward after Sulkowicz, claiming to have also been assaulted by the same perpetrator. The alleged attacker was found not guilty and was allowed to continue on at Columbia.

Anyone with the slightest inkling of common sense should know how incredibly inappropriate it is to have a rape victim draw a diagram of how they were raped during a hearing, as it forces them to relive the trauma of the experience. The fact that a university administrator could be so ignorant and insensitive shows there’s something seriously amiss at Columbia.

For her senior visual arts thesis, Sulkowicz has decided to drag her mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her alleged rapist is expelled or leaves the university. Dragging the mattress is meant to represent the emotional weight a rape victim carries with them.

Sulkowicz’s thesis is an incredibly powerful image, and she should be applauded for her bravery in standing up to the school and for calling attention to her situation. At no time did she name her alleged rapist, which is admirable in itself and demonstrates her maturity.

From Sulkowicz’s case, it’s clear that Columbia’s vested interest in protecting their own reputation trumps the well-being of their students.

Columbia’s mishandling of Sulkowixz’s case makes it clear they’re not taking effective steps to address sexual assault, let alone prevent it.

Although Columbia didn’t lead by example, they can act as an example through their cowardice to all universities that now is the time for transforming how sexual assault cases are handled.

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