Columbia and Paul Nungesser, CC ’15, have agreed to settle a lawsuit that he filed against the University in 2015.
Nungesser was at the center of a gender-based misconduct investigation after Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15, accused him of assault in 2012. He was later found not guilty by a University investigation.
Sulkowicz protested that finding in her senior art thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” in which she carried a mattress with her at all times in a critique of the University’s decision not to discipline Nungesser. The thesis made national headlines, and Sulkowicz spearheaded a national student-led push for a reformed gender-based misconduct process.
Nungesser’s suit charged that the University failed to protect him from—and even encouraged—sustained protest by Sulkowicz, which Nungesser initially argued was a violation of Title IX.
The University announced that it had settled the suit—for which Nungesser submitted a new complaint after his initial one was dismissed last year—in a conciliatory statement sent to Spectator Thursday.
The statement reaffirmed that Columbia’s investigation had found Nungesser not responsible and expressed regret that his time after the investigation was “very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience.”
The statement also said the University will reform its gender-based misconduct policies to make sure all students, “accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible,” are treated with “respect.”
The University did not disclose the terms of the settlement.
In response to Nungesser’s initial suit, Columbia had argued that it was not obligated to censor Sulkowicz’s speech or the subject matter of her art thesis, and that allowing her performance did not constitute gender discrimination.
Last year, a district court sided with the University and dismissed Nungesser’s complaint. Nungesser then filed a new complaint alleging that Columbia exhibited gender-based harassment, sexual harassment, and gender-based misconduct against him without citing Title IX as its grounds.
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