Last week, students at Columbia University received an email from the Dean of Columbia College, the Dean of the Engineering School, and the Dean of Undergraduate Student Life announcing a mandatory sexual respect program to be completed by all students over the next several weeks. Immediate criticism of the program has arisen, particularly among activist organizations, who have made accusations that Columbia’s new initiative is “poorly designed and demonstrates a willful neglect of empirical evidence and student feedback [and] will not prevent sexual or dating violence.” Harsh – but not without truth. The details of the program, including what degree of student effort is necessary to complete it, hardly inspire faith in sexual assault education.
Yesterday morning, Columbia activists payed back President Bollinger for the $471 fine incurred during October 29th’s National Carry That Weight Day of Action, albeit in less-than-depositable format. Several students, among them members of No Red Tape, carried a giant mattress to the president’s office emblazoned with a “check” for 471 dollars including the memo “Stop punishing survivors and activists. Be the leader on our side!” The mattress-check snarkily alluded to the dozens of mattresses that were placed in front of Bollinger’s house after the October 29th Carry That Weight rally, for which the group was fined for supposed clean-up fees – and, of course, to Columbia’s ur-mattress, Emma Sulkowicz’s senior thesis art-protest project Carry That Weight.
In response to the perceived insult, several students carried the mattress to Bollinger’s office in the campus’ main administrative building (and how they got a mattress into Low, we’ll never know) and read out loud a letter condemning his lack of response to survivor’s protests over the past semester.
Read the full letter below, which narrates the story better than we could. Columbia’s official responses to other blogs’ requests for comment spouted some unremarkable and empty admin speak, which isn’t even worth copying here. (However, they claimed to have waived the $471 fee. That’s nice, we guess.)