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May 19, 2015 12:39 PM EDT

Emma Sulkowicz Took Her Mattress to Graduation


Despite a policy seemingly tailored to her unique demonstration, Emma Sulkowicz brought her mattress to her graduation ceremony at Columbia University.

According to the Columbia Spectator, the Ivy League school disallowed graduating seniors from bringing large items to the ceremony, but apparently made an exception for Sulkowicz. Though she was apparently asked to leave the mattress in Lerner Hall during the Columbia College Class Day proceedings, Sulkowicz was photographed carrying the mattress across the tented stage.

"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," read an email to students, shared by the Spectator.

Sulkowicz told the newspaper she received "no direct communication" ahead of the ceremony.

The visual arts student gained national attention for her senior thesis, "Carry That Weight," for which she vowed to carry the mattress she claims to have been raped on at Columbia until the school takes appropriate action against her rapist.

For her project, she had to take the mattress everywhere she could possibly take it and was not allowed to ask for help carrying it, but could accept offers of help. Many students have shown their support for Sulkowicz since by helping her with the mattress.

But Paul Nungesser, the man accused of raping her, recently filed a lawsuit against Columbia and one professor, claiming to have been unfairly subjected to harassment without appropriate protection from his school. Nungesser's name was reportedly on the program for Sunday's ceremony.

Sulkowicz was one of 23 students at Columbia to file a federal Title IX complaint in April 2014 against the school for alleged violations in how they handle complaints of sexual misconduct on campus. The U.S. Education Department officially opened an investigation earlier this year.

"During my hearing, one panelist kept asking me how it was physically possible for anal rape to happen," Sulkowicz told Time last year. "I was put in the horrible position of trying to explain how this terrible thing happened to me."

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