Columbia Settles With Male Student Accused of Rape in Feminist Mattress Project

Surprisingly, being cast as a rapist wasn't great for his social life.

Remember Mattress Girl?  The New York Times reports on the Columbia student who dragged her mattress everywhere she went on campus, as an art project:

A woman who felt that Columbia University had mishandled her charge of rape against a fellow student turned that anger into her senior arts thesis, a yearlong project in which she carried a 50-pound mattress whenever she was on the Morningside Heights campus.

The woman, Emma Sulkowicz, won national acclaim and was largely embraced by her fellow students, who often helped her carry her burden, which she even brought to a graduation ceremony in May 2015.

She was pretty vocal about her stunt and got tons of notoriety -- not only on campus but also in the national media.

Turns out, however that her supposed rapist, Paul Nungesser, was cleared of wrongdoing. Not only did the police find her claims so suspicious that he wasn't even charged, a university disciplinary panel agreed. Little things like facts had no bearing on her publicity stunt, however. Nungesser was hounded and defamed across campus by students who saw her mattress, attended an on-campus rally, or saw fliers posted around the school. Even though her whole stunt was based on a lie, however, the university gave her college credit for her "mattress art." 

The New York Times reports that Nungesser didn't like that too much:

Columbia said late this week that it had reached a settlement with Mr. Nungesser, the terms of which it did not disclose. But the university said 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.”

Mr. Nungesser’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, said it had been important to Mr. Nungesser and his parents that Columbia “take some steps to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again, that this type of experience wouldn’t be suffered by someone else.” Of the settlement, Mr. Miltenberg said: “It’s as reasonable of an ending as you can have under these circumstances. Paul still has to live with this, and I suspect he will for a long time.”

Good for him! We hope the settlement hurt them financially.

It's time that colleges begin to treat both sexes equally, fairly, and legally when it comes to sexual violence.

Image Credit: By Emma Sulkowicz (Our source is Art in America) via Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: By Adam Sherman (Adam Sherman by email) via Wikimedia Commons