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Student Accused of Rape Sues Columbia University for Harassment

By Emily Frost | April 24, 2015 2:08pm | Updated on April 27, 2015 8:47am
 Paul Nungesser alleges Columbia allowed Emma Sulkowicz to create a hostile environment for him on campus.
Paul Nungesser alleges Columbia allowed Emma Sulkowicz to create a hostile environment for him on campus.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY — A Columbia University student accused of raping a classmate claims he was harassed by his accuser and is suing the university, its trustees and its president for not protecting him.

Paul Nungesser filed a discrimination lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court Thursday, charging he was subject to ongoing harassment by another student which destroyed his "college experience, his reputation, his emotional well-being and his future career prospects."

The suit asserts the accusations hurts Nungesser's ability to find work in the country, which he needs to do to stay because he's a German citizen.

Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz publicly accused Nungesser of raping her and has carried a dorm room mattress for nearly eight months everywhere she goes as part of an art project until he is removed from campus or leaves of his own volition.

Sulkowicz and other student activists allege Columbia mishandled her case, for which they found Nungesser "not responsible." 

The suit, which calls for an undetermined amount of damages, said that Columbia University became an active supporter of Sulkowicz's campaign and, during the adjudication process, granted Sulkowicz's requests and accommodations, but did not afford Nungesser the same treatment.

He accused the university of not allowing him to have a lawyer and for excluding "important" evidence during the adjudication process.

The university also committed a human rights violation by creating a "hostile educational environment" for Nungesser, the suit states.

Nungesser alleges that Sulkowicz threatened him and made him feel unsafe on campus and that Columbia did nothing to prevent this nor prevent Sulkowicz from publicly calling him a "serial rapist."

The suit also takes aim at Visual Arts Professor Jon Kessler for supporting Sulkowicz's project and thus her "harassment and defamation of [Nungesser]," the suit states. 

Sulkowicz dismissed the suit as "ridiculous." 

"It's ridiculous that he would read [the mattress piece] 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 experienced at Columbia," she said in an email. 

A Columbia University spokeswoman declined to comment. Nungesser's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.