Columbia University has settled a lawsuit brought by former student Paul Nungesser.
In 2012, former Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz accused Nungesser of rape. Columbia’s disciplinary committee dismissed the case and police declined to pursue charges. Sulkowicz launched a now famous art project, carrying her mattress around campus throughout the 2014-2015 school year and to her graduation.
Nungesser sued the university, alleging it supported an “outrageous display of harassment and defamation.” A Federal District Court dismissed Nungesser’s case twice. Nungesser and Columbia have now settled, but the terms were not disclosed.
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.”
This news comes at a time when the Trump administration is questioning policies put in place under President Obama to address sexual violence on campus. Earlier this week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos met with advocates for rape victims as well as men’s rights groups. Meanwhile, Candice Jackson, who is head of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, was criticized for saying sexual assaults are “hookups gone wrong.”
Nungesser’s lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, specializes in advocating for the rights of men accused of sexual assault. He told the New York Times he hopes the school will “take some steps to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again.” Commenting on the settlement 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.”
Sulkowicz did not comment on the news. Nungesser, according to his lawyer, is currently living in his home country of Germany.