Officials at Columbia University announced this week that they have reached a settlement with Paul Nungesser, a German student cleared of responsibility in the case which drew national attention to the student who would become known as “Mattress Girl.”
Art student Emma Sulkowicz carried her dorm room mattress around campus for a year as her senior thesis project, claiming it was to draw awareness to the university’s acquittal of Nungesser whom she accused of raping her as well as the alleged “epidemic” of sexual assaults on college campuses.
Sulkowicz ended her performance art carrying the 50 pound mattress on stage for her graduation.
But to Nungesser this display was a form of harassment and defamation, so he sued the university, claiming that allowing Sulkowicz to carry on carrying her mattress at graduation and giving her academic credit for doing so violated his rights until Title IX, which prohibits sexual harassment.
Columbia has not disclosed the terms of the settlement but wrote in a statement:
Columbia recognizes that after the conclusion of the investigation, Paul’s remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience. Columbia will continue to review and update its policies toward ensuring that every student — accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible — is treated respectfully and as a full member of the Columbia community.
“It’s as reasonable of an ending as you can have under these circumstances,” said Nungesser’s lawyer, Andrew Miltonberg. “Paul still has to live with this, and I suspect he will for a long time.”
The settlement comes as the Trump administration plans to reassess federal policies regarding sexual assault on campus put in place under President Obama.
The policies mandate that colleges and universities not require sexual assault claimants to testify against their accused rapists and prevent the accused from having a lawyer present during his university hearing.
In 2015, 89% of U.S. colleges reported zero rapes on campus despite the frequently stated lie that one-in-four women are sexually assaulted on American campuses.
In their statement, Columbia claimed that Nungesser was attending Columbia’s film school, but Miltonberg said Nungesser was living back in Germany.