Student Cleared of Rape Accusations Sues Columbia University for Gender Discrimination

Andrew Burton/AFP
Andrew Burton/AFP

A Columbia University student, cleared by the school and law enforcement of rape accusations, has filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming it failed to protect him from harassment by the student who continued her public claims that he raped her.

As the Associated Press reports, Paul Nungesser, a German citizen who filed the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, claims Emma Sulkowicz, a former friend, has harassed him by carrying a mattress around the Columbia campus in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, calling Nungesser a “serial rapist” and bringing national and international attention to the accusations of rape she made against him, even though the school and law enforcement had already cleared him of those claims.

Nungesser said he and Sulkowicz had consensual sex in 2012, but Sulkowicz charged that he hit her, pinned her down, and raped her in a dorm room.

“Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning … learning and living environment,” states the lawsuit that names the school, its president, Lee C. Bollinger, board of trustees, and Professor Jon Kessler as defendants.

According to The New York Times, the lawsuit claims that Kessler not only approved of Sulkowicz’s mattress project, but also “publicly endorsed her harassment and defamation” of Nungesser.

Sulkowicz claims carrying the mattress around publicly was an “artistic expression of the personal trauma [she] experienced at Columbia” and was related to her senior thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).”

In a video in which she claims she was raped in her bed in the dorm, Sulkowicz said, “I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”

As reported last year by the New York Post, Sulkowicz waited eight months to report the alleged rape and admitted the event she claims was rape transpired after she had consensual sex with the student on two occasions.

“She is actively earning course credit from Columbia for this outrageous display of harassment and defamation,” Nungesser’s lawsuit states, adding that the school is aware “Paul’s legal rights are being violated and that his well-being and future prospects are suffering immensely.”

“By refusing to protect Paul Nungesser, Columbia University first became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it,” the lawsuit said.

Sulkowicz, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in an email statement to the Times, “I think it’s ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece.”


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