A Columbia University student who officials cleared of rape allegations has filed a lawsuit claiming the school allowed his accuser to harass and defame him by permitting her to carry a mattress on her back on its New York campus as a protest.
Paul Nungesser, a graduating senior at the prestigious Ivy League school, was accused by Emma Sulkowicz of raping her in August 2012. She complained to school officials, but they later cleared Nungesser. He maintains the sex was consensual.
In protest, Sulkowicz began carrying a mattress with her at all times on campus in what she said was an artistic statement entitled “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)." The performance piece earned the visual arts student national headlines and an award from the National Organization for Women.
In his lawsuit, filed on Thursday, Nungesser argues he was a victim of harassment and defamation and that the university allowed him to suffer in a hostile educational environment, according to a statement from his attorney, Andrew Miltenberg.
Seeking a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and unspecified monetary damages, the lawsuit names Columbia, President Lee Bollinger, its board of trustees and Jon Kessler, a visual arts professor, as defendants.
The lawsuit said Nungesser was effectively denied equal access to Columbia’s resources and opportunities, undermining and detracting from his educational experience.
He suffered "damages to his physical well-being, emotional and psychological damages, damages to reputation, past and future economic losses, educational and athletic activities, and loss of future career prospects," his attorney's statement said.
A spokesman said Columbia had no comment. Sulkowicz could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sulkowicz filed a police report in May 2014 but according to local media did not pursue a criminal case.
She has said that the sex she had with Nungesser was consensual at the onset but turned violent.