In true Barack Obama fashion, the president of the United States may march out a supposed victim tonight at the State of the Union Address in order to appeal to one of his constituencies, single liberal women.
With the War on Women a prominent feature of Obama’s campaigning, he likely will weave the talking point into his address, and may even publicly acknowledge an alleged victim: Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz, who has been invited to attend by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
There’s only one problem Sulkowicz’s sob story: She can’t prove it.
The sexualt assault charges she brought against fellow student Paul Nungesser in 2012 were dismissed by the university after an investigation. That didn’t matter to Sulkowicz, a visual arts major who used the supposed incident to fetch publicity from the establishment press by carrying her mattress around campus ever.
Gillibrand seized on Sulkowicz’s claim, pontificating to the New York Daily News: “I hope the president will seize this opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug.”
Meanwhile, Nungesser, despite a total exoneration, has led the life of a social outcast, according to the New York Times. Two other women accused him of abusing them, but the university cleared him in all three cases. Nungesser maintains that the sex between him and Sulkowicz was consensual. Sulkowicz, in the time-honored tradition of performance artists, continually carries her mattress to symbolize her burden, and has said she will continue to do so until Nungesser leaves the school. What she calls “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” also functions as her senior thesis for the visual arts department. They are both scheduled to graduate this year.
Sulkowicz has received national awards; last October, more than 100 colleges featured women carrying mattresses. Nungesser, on the other hand, has seen his name written on campus bathrooms and all over the Internet accusing him of a vicious crime. He claims that allowing Sulkowicz to continue with her actions a bullying attempt to force him out of college.
“There is a member of the faculty that is supervising this,” he said, referring to Sulkowicz’s project. “This is part of her graduation requirement.”
Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger ignored Nungesser’s complaint.
“The law and principles of academic freedom allow students to express themselves on issues of public debate; at the same time, our legal and ethical responsibility is to be fair and impartial in protecting the rights and accommodating the concerns of all students in these matters,” she stated.
Nungesser thinks that Sulkowicz, her advisor, and the president of the university are in cahoots together. He also pointed out that campus hearings have a lower burden of proof than criminal trials — the fact that he was exonerated speaks for itself, he says. He also says he supports equal rights for women and is not a misogynist.
“My mother raised me as a feminist, and I’m someone who would like to think of myself as being supportive of equal rights for women,” he said.