Columbia University has reached a settlement with former student Paul Nungesser, who was at the center of the “mattress girl” rape accusation.
A lawyer for Nungesser argued in 2015 that Columbia’s handling of the high-profile incident was akin to gender discrimination. Emma Sulkowicz famously carried her mattress around campus and across the graduation stage to bring attention to what she alleged was the administration’s mishandling of her accusation against Nungesser.
Nungesser and his attorney alleged that Columbia endorsed Sulkowicz’s behavior in the aftermath of the alleged incident due to the fact that her decision to carry her mattress was a part of her senior thesis in performance art that was endorsed by her faculty advisor. In 2015, Sulkowicz brought attention back to the controversy when she released a bizarre sex tape recreation of the encounter in 2015.
Last week, Columbia University finally settled with Nungesser over the decisions they made in the aftermath of the alleged incident.
“Together with Paul and his parents, we have fought for three long years,” said lawyer Andrew Miltenberg, according to the Washington Post. “It gives Paul a chance to go on with his life and recover from the false accusation against him. We hope that the resolution of the case also ensures that no student will ever have to endure what Paul went through after he was exonerated.”
In a statement, Columbia University claimed that during Nungesser’s remaining time at the University he was arguably treated like he wasn’t a full member of the Columbia community.
“Columbia recognizes that after the conclusion of the investigation, Paul’s remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience,” the administration wrote.
“Columbia will continue to review and update its policies toward ensuring that every student — accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible — is treated respectfully and as a full member of the Columbia community,” they added.
Miltenberg spoke briefly about the ramifications of labeling a student “rapist” before they are afforded due process and a fair hearing before the law. “I think this case fits into the larger debate in that the mark of being called a rapist is a significant one, and it follows you regardless of whether or not the university finds you responsible,” he said.
“It highlights in a way how polarizing the topic is and how much damage can be done just by having to go through the process, let alone worrying about whether it’s going to be handled fairly or not,” he added.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.orgIt c