Emma Sulkowicz Was ‘Let Down’ by Obama SOTU Speech

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Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia student and anti-rape activist who attended the State of the Union last night as a guest of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, was disappointed not to see the president touch upon sexual assault on college campuses.

“I can’t say I was entirely surprised because since when has violence against women ever been a man’s issue?" Sulkowicz, whose performance-art project — carrying a mattress around with her in response to an alleged rape — attracted worldwide attention, told Daily Intelligencer this morning as she was on the train back from Washington. “I am not going to lie, I was let down because I felt like there were points in his speech where he could have brought it up. I was really hoping he would mention it, since the issue has been raised to a new level."

Not that she was immune to the evening’s theatrics. “Just seeing the president in person was such a wild experience,” she said. “And shaking John Kerry’s hand was also extremely surreal. He didn’t really know who I was, and even when Senator Gillibrand introduced me no one seemed to know who I was. But that’s okay.”

Sulkowicz said she was invited by Gillibrand to bring attention to the Campus Safety and Accountability Act the senator has co-sponsored. "She wants to send a message. I think a good place to start is passing the campus accountability bill. I think every part of it is really important," Sulkowicz said.

Paul Nungesser, Sulkowicz’s alleged attacker, continues to maintain his innocence, but Sulkowicz is not deterred and argues the case was never properly investigated. "At first I was upset that he was using this to give his side of the story after all that he has done and continues to do, but, at least when I see the interviews he is giving, he is saying so many revealing and unintelligent things it is almost helping my case,” she said.

Sulkowicz, an art major, is working on a new body of work related to her Carry That Weight thesis, which she plans to present before the end of the school year. The holidays gave her a break from carrying the mattress, and she did not take it to Washington. “When I’m off-campus I don’t carry it," she said. "I’m going to be carrying it again today for the first time in a few weeks.”