Accused Rapist in Columbia ‘Mattress Girl’ Case Sues University

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Emma SulkowiczPhoto: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Paul Nungesser, the German Columbia University student who was accused of rape by fellow student Emma Sukowicz in a high-profile case, has filed a lawsuit against the university, its president and one of its professors. In the discrimination suit, filed on Thursday, Nungesser alleges that Columbia acted as “a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it.”

That harassment campaign is Sulkowicz’s senior thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” in which she’s been hauling a mattress to and from her classes all year as a symbol of the weight she says she now carries after her rape. Though Nungesser was cleared of any wrongdoing in a university hearing, Sulkowicz has maintained his guilt, and in May joined a Title IX complaint that alleges Columbia mishandled her case. 

Nungesser’s lawsuit states that Columbia discriminated against him by refusing to protect him against Sulkowicz’s “outrageous display of harassment and defamation” and allowing her to earn school credit through the project. He also alleges that Columbia committed a human-rights violation by refusing to protect him from the “hostile education environment.” He’s seeking unknown damages from the school, its president Lee Bollinger, and professor Jon Kessler, who advised on Sulkowicz’s project.

In an email to the Times, Sulkowicz called the lawsuit “ridiculous.”