Male student accused by ‘Mattress Girl’ reaches settlement with Columbia in gender bias case
Paul Nungesser sued his school for failing to protect him after Emma Sulkowicz’s ‘Mattress Girl’ protest
Columbia University have settled a lawsuit filed in 2015 by a former student, Paul Nungesser.
The lawsuit claimed that Columbia failed to protect Nungesser from the onslaught of backlash he received due to protests from Emma Sulkowicz, the woman who accused him of raping her during her sophomore year, 2012.
Although Nungesser was found not guilty after an investigation by the University, Sulkowicz spoke out against Nungesser and used her senior art thesis to protest the school’s decision to not take action against the man she accused.
The project made national headlines as she carried a mattress around campus with her everywhere she went. She was dubbed “Mattress Girl” for her efforts.
The lawsuit dating back to 2015 argued the lack of protection and tolerance of harassment from the university was a violation of title IX and was gender discrimination.
Nungesser’s original complaint of gender discrimination was dismissed and Columbia argued that they had no obligation to censor a student’s art thesis or speech.
Furthermore, they argued that it was not gender discrimination to allow Sulkowicz to perform her art. He then filed a new complaint against Columbia, without citing Title IX.
The University did not disclose the terms of its settlement, but issued a statement reaffirming their original ‘not guilty’ ruling and expressing regret that his experience at Columbia was made more difficult because of the investigation.
The statement also promises that the University 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.”
Nungesser’s lawyer who frequently handles cases pertaining to Title IX, Andrew Miltenberg, also released a statement, saying that this settlement “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.”