by Samantha Lund, News Editor

A 10-minute walk across Upper Campus on Monday was all it took to make a difference.

Ten students gathered March 9 to stand up against sexual assault by carrying a mattress around Red Square and through the University Center.

Sophomores Chyna Boonlom and Kendra Saathoff organized “Lutes Carry That Weight” to bring awareness to gender-based violence on college campuses.

Boonlom and Saathoff decided to host this event, with help from the Women’s Center, because of a story they heard about a Columbia University student who was sexually assaulted.

Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, was sexually assaulted but the perpetrator walked away with no punishment. In response, Sulkowicz carried a mattress around campus with her to show the weight that all rape victims carry with them each day. Sulkowicz could not ask for help carrying the mattress, but took it when it was offered to her to spread awareness about how victims feel.

With this story in mind, Boonlom and Saathoff brought a group of Pacific Lutheran University students together to carry a mattress around campus in support of sexual assault awareness.

“Today was a national day of awareness, so a bunch of campuses were doing it,” Boonlom said. “We are showing solidarity to stand against violence and demand better policies on how all universities will handle these issues.”

The mattress made its way through Red Square and into the UC where students stopped and watched. The group sparked discussion among students waiting for their lunches and working on homework in the Commons.

Two first-year students were sitting close by and one asked the other what was going on.

Lutes started carrying the mattress in Red Square in front of Karen Hillie Phillips Center during Chapel Break on Monday morning. Before participating in the walk, students had to sign waivers allowing their pictures to be taken and acknowledging what they were doing and why they were there. From Red Square, the students went into the UC, down the stairs and circled back to KHP.
Lutes started carrying the mattress in Red Square in front of Karen Hillie Phillips Center during Chapel Break on Monday morning. Before participating in the walk, students had to sign waivers allowing their pictures to be taken and acknowledging what they were doing and why they were there. From Red Square, the students went into the UC, down the stairs and circled back to KHP.

“Watching it pass by was the first time I had even thought about it,” first-year Jennifer Brown said. “It is really cool that they are bringing everyone awareness about it.”

The other first-year, Megan Cummings, agreed. “I think it is really cool that they are giving a voice to many women who have been affected by sexual violence,” Cummings said. “It’s great that we have people on this campus standing up for that sort of thing.”

The mattress caused the two to stop and have a discussion about sexual assault and Sulkowicz, Brown and Cummings said.

Brown had never heard the story and said she liked that the students shared the message by carrying the mattress.

The event was put together in two weeks after Boonlom saw a post about it online.

She took interest in the project and, with the help of Jonathan Yglesias and Jennifer Warwick from the Women’s Center, made the event happen.

Boonlom and Saathoff are using this event as a kickoff for the PLU Feminist Student Union club that they are starting up on campus.

The club is not official yet, but Boonlom and Saathoff are planning to have the first meeting the week after spring break.

“It was a club here and we want to bring it back because it embodies a lot of the issues that we, as feminists, are interested in,” Saathoff said. “It is very much more than just women’s rights, we want it to be for everyone.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Feminist Student Union will be up and running by then and will be hosting meetings and discussions about different issues.

The mission statement of the group includes more than just feminism. It stands against all types of oppression.

If students want to reach out to the group, or become a member, they can find more information at their Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/PLU-Feminist-Student-Union/166456603407126 or email Boonlom or Saathoff at their PLU emails.

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Samantha Lund was the Editor in Chief at The Mast, a student-run newsroom within Pacific Lutheran University, in 2015-16. Lund created Mast Magazine in 2015 to give students a forum for long form news pieces. She could be found writing for Pacific Lutheran University's Marketing and Communication site plu.edu or interning at MOViN 92.9's morning talk show in Seattle. Other places to find her content include: Alaska Airlines blog and website, The News Tribune and The Bremerton Harald.