The Slatest

Student Accused of Rape in Columbia Mattress Protest Case Sues University

Emma Sulkowicz protests Columbia’s handling of her accusation against Paul Nungesser in September 2014.

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Paul Nungesser—the Columbia University student who was accused of rape by fellow student Emma Sulkowicz, who began carrying mattress on campus as an art project and protest when the school did not discipline him—has sued Columbia, its president, and the professor who allegedly approved Sulkowicz’s project. Nungesser’s suit asserts that he has suffered “loss of educational opportunities” as well as damage to his reputation and future career prospects.

From the New York Times, on the subject of the professor named in the suit:


The lawsuit alleges that Jon Kessler, the professor who is named as a defendant, not only approved [Sulkowicz’s] project but also “publicly endorsed her harassment and defamation” of Mr. Nungesser.

“She is actively earning course credit from Columbia for this outrageous display of harassment and defamation,” the lawsuit says, with the school aware that “Paul’s legal rights are being violated and that his well-being and future prospects are suffering immensely.”

Slate’s Amanda Hess wrote in December 2014 that Nungesser’s story and Sulkowicz’s story could both illustrate the same point—that university administrations may not be adequately equipped to adjudicate rape accusations. “The system fails victims; the system fails the accused,” wrote Hess. “But it’s the same system, and right now it doesn’t look like it’s serving anybody.”