Columbia University student Paul Nungesser filed a lawsuit against the university on 23 April saying it failed to protect him from harassment after a female student publicly claimed he raped her. According to the Associated Press, law enforcement authorities rejected her case that claimed he assaulted her after school.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court, names the school, its board of trustees, president Lee C Bollinger and Professor Jon Kessler as defendants.
"Columbia University's effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning...learning and living environment," the suit by the German national claims.
According to Nungesser, the rape claims by his one-time friend Emma Sulkowicz resulted in national and international media attention. He stated that a Columbia-owned website identified him as the person who sexually assaulted Sulkowicz and that the university allowed the visual arts senior to carry a mattress around campus to signify her rape.
"Day-to-day life is unbearably stressful, as Emma and her mattress parade around campus each and every day," the lawsuits contends. Nungesser said Sulkowicz mattress-carrying senior thesis may disrupt his parents' plans to participate in graduation ceremonies.
The university student also claims that Columbia's continued support of Sulkowicz is severely jeopardising his job prospects in the United States.
Ridiculous to claim a 'bullying strategy'
The AP reported that neither the university, nor any of the other defendants have commented on the case. However, Sulkowicz criticised Nungesser for his lawsuit, calling it "ridiculous".
She said, "It's ridiculous that he would read it as a 'bullying strategy,' especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it's just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I've experience at Columbia. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?"
Until recently, Nungesser has remained quiet about the alleged rape. In December, he was the focus of reporting done by the New York Times in which he disputed Sulkowicz description of the events of the alleged rape. He later provided further evidence that he said proved his innocence in a piece with the Daily Beast.