A judge has dismissed the federal discrimination lawsuit against Columbia University filed by a graduate who claimed the school stood by and did nothing while he was harassed by a classmate who had accused him of rape,
The suit, which was also filed against university President Lee Bollinger and visual arts professor Jon Kessler, claimed Paul Nungesser was the victim of a harassment campaign the university allowed even after the school found him “not responsible” of sexually assaulting a classmate.
Nungesser was accused of raping classmate Emma Sulkowicz in 2012. After the school found him “not responsible,” Sulkowicz pledged to carry a mattress, the alleged site of the rape, around campus until Nungesser left Columbia.
Sulkowicz continued to carry the mattress around campus until both she and Nungesser graduated from Columbia last spring. The mattress was part of Sulkowicz’ senior thesis, a performance art piece titled “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight.”
Her move was lauded by women’s rights activists around the world and garnered the high-profile support of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Nungesser claims the university violated Title IX — which prohibits discrimination based on sex — by allowing Sulkowicz to carry a mattress around campus.
In 2014, he told The New York Times that the events have “demolished” his reputation. While Sulkowicz has been the most visible, two other women have accused Nungesser of assault. He asserts that the three allegations against him were the result of collusion, according to The Times.
Nungesser’s suit was thrown out on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent for Title IX rape cases and that schools would be sued by students accused of sexual assault if they failed to silence alleged victims of the assault.
He can still pursue an amended claim against the university under a New York human rights law rather than Title IX.
“While we’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling today, we believe that this is a very strong case and we will continue in our pursuit of justice for Mr. Nungesser,” Andrew Miltenberg, a lawyer for Nungesser, said in an email to Reuters.
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