Dan Rattiner's Stories

The Mattress Project on Graduation Day at Columbia University

They came from two different worlds for the Class Day graduation ceremony at Columbia University. One was a young American student named Emma Sulkowicz, who walked across the platform to receive her graduation diploma dragging a mattress. She’d been carrying it around all semester as she went from one class to another, protesting the administration and a campus panel, claiming that they had botched a hearing by ruling against her after she claimed that another student had raped her.

The administration, which of course wholeheartedly supports freedom of expression, tried halfheartedly to prevent her dragging the mattress across the stage. There is a rule prohibiting students from bringing “large objects” to graduation. In response, she said it was called “Mattress Performance” and it was her senior project. So on she came, unimpeded.

Proceeding her—his name is earlier in the alphabet—was a young German scholarship student Paul Nungesser, who came to the graduation ceremony to get his diploma after filing a lawsuit against Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, and Jon Kessler, the visual arts professor—the man who advised Sulkowicz on her mattress project—for “gender based harassment.” He claims that allowing Sulkowicz to carry on her campaign and claim against him resulted in severe damage to his educational experience and future prospects as an adult. The campus panel had not only dismissed the charges against him, they also dismissed the charges of two other women who had said Nungesser raped them. According to Nungesser’s lawsuit, the panel had uncovered evidence that these other charges were part of a vendetta arranged by Sulkowicz to damage him further.

Other than that, the graduation ceremony went well. The “Mattress Project” completed by Sulkowicz has achieved glowing approval by the speakers at two other college commencements, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power.

As so many have said before and I repeat here now, in America in the 21st century it is imperative to have a legal document signed by the two parties intending to have sex with each other, describing what they agree to do, allow to be done and how often during such encounters.

That’s what I do.

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