Alleged Rape Victim Emma Sulkowicz Reportedly Snubbed By Columbia University President At Graduation

Anti-rape activist Emma Sulkowicz graduated Tuesday from Columbia University, carrying a mattress across the stage with help from her friends. Sulkowicz’s mattress protest stems from her belief that the university mishandled her claim of sexual assault in 2013 by Paul Nungesser, a fellow student at Columbia University who also graduated on Tuesday.

Columbia University launched an investigation and found Paul Nungesser “not responsible.” As part of her senior thesis project, Emma Sulkowicz bought a mattress online and vowed to carry it with her until Nungesser was expelled or until she graduated. As Nungesser wasn’t expelled, Sulkowicz carried the mattress for nine months around campus and across the stage as she graduated, reportedly to applause from the crowd.

According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger appeared to turn his back on Sulkowicz and refused to shake her hand as she passed by him with her mattress during the commencement ceremony. Bollinger was said to shake hands with all of the other students, however.

After the graduation ceremony, Emma Sulkowicz said she was surprised by the alleged snub.

“I even tried to smile at him or look him in the eye, and he completely turned away. So that was surprising, because I thought he was supposed to shake all of our hands.”

A Columbia University spokesperson, Victoria Benitez, said the president didn’t shake Emma Sulkowicz’s hand due to the mattress being between them and that the missed handshake was unintentional.

In an email from the university on Monday regarding the graduation ceremony, students were asked not to bring “large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces shared by thousands of people” in an attempt to discourage Sulkowicz from bringing her mattress.


On Wednesday, the day after Columbia University’s graduation ceremony, posters of Emma Sulkowicz standing with her mattress with the words “Pretty Little Liar” splashed across the front were seen posted throughout Manhattan. The Twitter account @fakerape seemed to take credit for the posters by tweeting photos of them from different locations.

In April, the accused student, Paul Nungesser, filed a lawsuit against Columbia University, Mr. Bollinger, and the professor who approved Ms. Sulkowicz’s thesis project, claiming he’s been harassed and his character defamed as a result of the school allowing Emma Sulkowicz to carry the mattress around campus.

Do you believe Columbia University’s president didn’t shake hands with Sulkowicz on purpose? What do you think about Emma Sulkowicz bringing her mattress to her graduation?

[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]