Columbia University has settled a lawsuit with a former student branded a rapist by his mattress-carrying classmate with a statement emphasizing that he was found “not responsible for any misconduct.”
The Ivy League university made it clear that a November 2013 campus investigation exonerated Paul Nungesser after he was accused of rape by Emma Sulkowicz, adding that “Columbia University stands by that finding.”
“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,” said the Thursday statement.
“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,” the statement said.
Both Mr. Nungesser and Ms. Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia in 2015.
Mr. Nungesser filed a lawsuit in two years ago against Columbia alleging that the university violated Title IX by aiding Ms. Sulkowicz, who received course credit for the high-profile protest that earned her the moniker “mattress girl.”
New York attorney Andrew T. Miltenberg released a statement from Mr. Nungasser’s parents saying that they had “fought for three long years for the statement like the one Columbia released today.”
“It gives Paul a chance to go on with his life and recover from the false accusation against him,” they said. “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.”
A federal judge dismissed the Title IX lawsuit in March 2016, saying the university’s treatment of Mr. Nungesser failed to rise to the level of sex-based discrimination, after which he took the case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ms. Sulkowicz drew fame as an international feminist icon for her “Carry That Weight” protest, which became the basis of her senior thesis. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, New York Democrat, invited Ms. Sulkowicz to be her guest at the January 2015 State of the Union address.
Since graduating, Ms. Sulkowicz has continued to make headlines for her controversial art projects. Two years ago, she released an eight-minute video in which she was “raped” in a staged performance, titled, “This is not a rape.”
In March, she wore a bikini and high heels as part of a bondage art exhibit in which she was tied to a board, hung from the ceiling, and berated by a male performer at a New York City gallery.
The performance, which was billed as a protest against President Trump, came as part of her studies in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, from which she graduated in May, according to Broadly.
Mr. Nungesser, a German citizen who has returned to Germany, is now enrolled in film school and has launched a career as a filmmaker.
The Columbia statement said that he graduated “in good standing as a distinguished John Jay Scholar. John Jay Scholars, like Paul, are recognized for their remarkable academic and personal achievements, dynamism, intellectual curiosity, and original thinking.”
His parents said that the “scarlet letter that comes with an allegation of rape is virtually indelible, and that is why universities must take great care in their approach to these matters.”
“This dark episode in Paul’s life will never fully disappear, but we are extremely happy that Paul can now fully focus on following his passion and talent as an aspiring filmmaker,” they said.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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