Man Accused of ‘Mattress Girl’ Rape Settles Lawsuit with Columbia Univ.

Paul Nungesser’s claims of discrimination against Columbia University had previously been thrown out by a judge.

Former Columbia University student Paul Nungesser settled a lawsuit with the school July 13 to end a case that had gained nationwide attention.

The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed but both sides admitted relief at the idea of putting the two-year case behind them.

Nungesser claimed in the lawsuit that Columbia discriminated against him in its response to a female classmate’s efforts to draw attention to an alleged rape. That student, Emma Sulkowicz, carried a mattress around campus in protest following Columbia’s finding that Nungesser was not responsible for sexual misconduct.

Suklkowicz received academic credit from the school because the protest was also an art project.

Nungesser claimed Columbia’s handling of the situation created a hostile environment and discriminated against him because he is male. The claim was dismissed by a federal judge in March but Nungesser appealed that decision, reports Newsweek.

After the settlement, Columbia said it “recognizes that after the conclusion of the [sexual misconduct] 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.”

Nungesser’s family and lawyer also released statements expressing satisfaction with the settlement terms and excitement to move on.

Campus Safety has reported on the increasing number of male students filing lawsuits against schools for discrimination during Title IX proceedings. The lawsuits fail in most instances because of the difficulty of establishing discrimination in Title IX cases.

Plaintiffs cannot prove gender discrimination simply by showing that Title IX policies have a “disparate impact” on men, as they can in the equal employment provision Title VII. Instead, all plaintiffs claiming discrimination in Title IX cases must prove that the school intentionally discriminated against them because of their sex.


About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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