Accused Rapist’s Parents Criticize Columbia for Allowing Mattress at Graduation

By
Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz made international news yesterday by carrying a mattress across the stage at her college graduation, as she had pledged to do at the beginning of the school year. But she wasn't the only one to graduate. The man she accused of rape, senior Paul Nungesser, also received his diploma. Paul’s parents, Karin Nungesser and Andreas Probosch, have since released a statement calling the event a “deeply humiliating experience.”

“Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family. We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to. For over two years, he had to fight false accusations and a public witch-hunt, even though Columbia and the NYPD exonerated him.”

Nungesser recently filed a lawsuit against Columbia, alleging the school violated his Title IX rights, and says the school turned his life into a “nightmare.” His parents criticize Columbia for letting Sulkowicz carry the mattress to graduation, and claim the school also allowed Sulkowicz to exhibit “disturbing” photos of their son publicly on campus.

“A university that bows to a public witch-hunt no longer deserves to be called a place of enlightenment, of intellectual and academic freedom. By failing to intervene in this injustice, Columbia ceases to be a place where critical thinking, courage and democratic practice are taught, learned and lived.”

Earlier today, posters of Sulkowitz with the words “Pretty Little Liar” were posted near the Columbia campus and circulated on Twitter.

Nungesser's parents' full statement is below:

Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family. We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to. For over two years, he had to fight false accusations and a public witch-hunt, even though Columbia and the NYPD exonerated him.


At graduation, Columbia University again broke its own rules and afforded Emma Sulkowicz a special exception. It was the second devastating experience in just a few days: last week, Columbia exhibited Emma Sulkowicz’s highly disturbing and extremely graphic drawings of our son publicly on campus.


We have come to realize that at Columbia, not all are equal before its policy. What is the point of internal investigations if their outcome is not accepted? Instead those with better connections and more influence promoted a false narrative. While they failed at their goal of bullying our son into leaving this university, they have turned his life into a nightmare.


Responsible for this nightmare is not just the woman, who received an academic degree for the attempt to shame Paul away from campus, but even more at fault is the University that conferred this degree. A university that bows to a public witch-hunt no longer deserves to be called a place of enlightenment, of intellectual and academic freedom. By failing to intervene in this injustice, Columbia ceases to be a place where critical thinking, courage and democratic practice are taught, learned and lived.


Two years ago we would have never believed that one of the world’s most prestigious universities would not only allow such harassment but explicitly support it on its campus. This has been a deeply humiliating experience. We are very proud of our son for graduating from college, but our memory of it will always be tainted by Columbia’s wrongdoing.


Karin Nungeßer & Andreas Probosch, May 20th, 2015