The PJ Tatler

Student Sues Columbia for Failing to Protect Him from Harassment of 'Rape' Claimant

Here’s a bit of a twist to the usual stories we hear concerning rape on college campuses.

On Thursday, a student at Columbia University filed suit against the school for failing to protect him from harassment by a fellow student making rape allegations.

According to the New York Daily News, both the school and law enforcement rejected the woman’s claims.

Paul Nungesser, a German citizen who attends Columbia University, is claiming fellow student Emma Sulkowicz has continuously and publicly said that he is a “serial rapist” which has earned the situation both national and international media attention.

“Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning … learning and living environment,” the lawsuit said.

Columbia did not have any comment on the suit.

In his lawsuit, Nungesser said a Columbia-owned website had presented as fact that he sexually assaulted Sulkowicz, a senior majoring in visual arts. It said that the school allowed Sulkowicz to carry a mattress into classes, the library and campus-provided transportation as part of her senior thesis, that Kessler approved the “Mattress Project” for her course credit and that Sulkowicz’s pledge to carry her mattress to graduation may prevent Nungesser and his parents, who’d like to fly from Germany, from participating in graduation ceremonies.

Here is a picture of Sulkowicz and her mattress:


The suit also states that Nungesser “has been subjected to severe, pervasive … and threatening behavior by other Columbia students, believing that Paul is a `serial rapist,’ whenever Paul has appeared at university activities.”

Sulkowticz claims that her behavior is merely “art”:

“It’s ridiculous that he would read it as a `bullying strategy,’ especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it’s just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?”

The story Sulkowicz tells is this, from the Cathy Young at The Daily Beast:

On Aug. 27, 2012, she has said, a sexual encounter that began as consensual suddenly turned terrifyingly violent: Her partner, a man whom she considered a close friend and with whom she had sex on two prior occasions, began choking and hitting her and then penetrated her anally while she struggled and screamed in pain. By Sulkowicz’s account, she finally decided to file a complaint within the university system several months later when she heard stories of other sexual assaults by the same man—only to see him exonerated after a shoddy investigation and a hearing at which she was subjected to clueless and insensitive questions. What’s more, charges brought against the man by two other women also ended up being dismissed.

The other side of the story, Nungesser’s side, tells a different tale.  He provided The Daily Beast with numerous Facebook messages between the two of them following the alleged rape, that were friendly and engaging. On her birthday, several months after the alleged rape, Nungesser sent her a happy birthday message. to which she responded, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”

The details of the story are quite complex; you can read the rest of Cathy Young’s piece if you are interested, it’s quite thorough.

We’ll see how this plays out in court.