The Columbia University “Mattress” Story
[See addendum for Paul Nungasser’s federal lawsuit against Columbia for violation of Title IX and New York Human Rights Law, breach of covenant, unfair trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.]
[See postscript for a summary of the fourth sexual assault complaint against Paul Nungesser which was dismissed by Columbia.]
[See sequel for Columbia University’s failure to prevent Sulkowicz from carrying her mattress to graduation.]
[See Rape Part Deux for Sulkowicz’ pornographic attempt to continue her ’15 minutes of infamy” while inadvertently revealing the depth of her narcissistic personality disorder.]
What began as an apparent “He Said – She Said” story of a friendly sexual encounter gone wrong, and became a text-book case of reverse sexual discrimination and gender-based harassment with the official complicity of an Ivy League school, may yet be remembered as the most notorious case of false rape accusation gone viral.
More than the now-infamous and discredited Rolling Stone story of the brutal gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at the staid University of Virginia as part of a fraternity initiation… more even than the incredible Duke Lacrosse Team gang rape fabrication that almost resulted in innocent men going to jail… the Emma “The Mattress” Sulkowicz story became the model of Title IX failure, the standard for college women “survivors” who cannot find justice, the centerpiece of an international movement for protection from campus sexual assault, and the justification for yet more federal and state legislation to keep college women safe from the depredations of the male libido and from callous and indifferent school administrators and the ruthless police.
With the lawsuit now filed in federal court by Paul Nungasser, the man that Emma accused (but was found not responsible by his college and not prosecuted by the police), the terrible truth will prevail: the truth that Emma Sulkowicz (for the same reasons as Jackie at U-Va) may have fabricated the entire episode many months after the fact, first for revenge against the hapless former friend who was not returning her strongly-expressed affections, and then for the increasing attention that it brought to the young woman – attention all the way to the front page of the New York Times, New York & Time Magazines, the US Congress and the President’s State of the Union address.
If Nungesser’s lawsuit prevails, or perhaps even if it does not but with the widespread media coverage that it will generate, it may have the salutary effect of embarrassing those activist, academic, media and political figures who have been using this case as the poster child for college “rape culture” and the indifference or antipathy of Title IX administrators and police investigators toward college women who bring claims of sexual assault or rape.
It may just be the “shot heard round the world” that will begin to reverse the momentum toward gender-based discrimination against college men.
When Title IX was passed into law in 1972 (renamed the Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002), it’s ostensible purpose was defined from the start as “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”.
However, it’s intended function was to give women a level playing field with men – quite literally, as for the first 20 years most of the focus was on college sports programs.
Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana was its author and chief Senate sponsor. On the floor of the Senate, he articulated its purpose:
“While the impact of this amendment would be far-reaching, it is not a panacea. It is, however, an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs – an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop the skills they want, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work”.
In other words, Title IX was an offering of immediate action to those who successfully pushed the Equal Rights Amendment through both houses of Congress that same year, only to see it fail to achieve state ratification by either the original deadline of March 22, 1979 or the extended deadline of June 30, 1982.
The original language of Title IX was carefully written to be gender-neutral and included not a word about sexual harassment, let alone sexual assault. It was exclusively focused on equal educational opportunities.
In the 1990s, however, the focus began to shift to sexual harassment. In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), the Supreme Court ruled that a school could be liable under Title IX if it had actual knowledge of sexual harassment and acted deliberately indifferent. The Court clarified that the harassment must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
In guidance issued in 1997 and revised and expanded in 2001, the DOE Office of Civil Rights (OCR) emphasized that institutions must take reasonable steps to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment as a condition of receiving federal funds. In April of 2011, the OCR issued additional guidance in a “Dear Colleague” letter focusing on sexual violence as a form of sexual harassment – for the first time forcing America’s colleges to bring alleged criminal acts under its administrative authority, and requiring that schools offer (typically women) complainants the option of NOT reporting an alleged sexual assault to the police, thereby participating in a federally-sanctioned act of obstruction of justice.
On May 9, 2013, the United States Departments of Justice and Education issued a findings letter announcing a resolution agreement with the University of Montana, which refers to the agreement as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault” [emphasis added].
That blueprint defined sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence…that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program based on sex.”
It also specified that “In determining whether this denial or limitation has occurred, the United States examines all the relevant circumstances from an objective and subjective perspective…” [emphasis added].
This national “blueprint” for resolving Title IX sexual harassment complaints effectively undermined the 1st Amendment by banning speech, whether verbal or nonverbal, that another person finds subjectively offensive, thereby scrapping the normative legal “reasonable person” standard.
In April 2014, when the White House task force issued its initial report on campus sexual violence, titled “Not Alone”, the OCR provided more guidance that directed campuses how to conduct an investigation, how to examine witnesses, and how to provide interim relief to a claimant. Although this sort of guidance is not binding with the force of law, Title IX investigations generally result in resolution agreements requiring institutions to comply with the OCR’s interpretation of the law.
In May 2014, the OCR issued a list naming 55 colleges and universities then under investigation for compliance violations of Title IX, and supplemental lists have expanded that number to nearly 100 as the OCR’s enforcement efforts have been increased.
Case Study in Poor Procedure
Prior to these elaborations of Title IX, colleges used their own interpretations of gender-based harassment policy, which varied widely and were not consistently applied or were applied in gender-biased ways, with a great deal of social pressure to protect women in a new form of paternalism.
With both campus-based and national rape-victim advocacy groups applying enormous pressure through the media and lobbying campaigns, the Obama administration has significantly expanded the scope and force of Title IX, with threats of loss of all federal funding (including student financial aid – essentially a death sentence for even the most wealthy institutions) and/or significant fines and public embarrassment through the publication of the names of colleges under investigation (which can be initiated by a single student complaint). This has resulted in the enforcement of a top-down uniformity of policy and procedure that is objectively biased in favor of the (typically female) “complainants” and against the (typically male) “respondents”.
For instance, the blueprint letter required that colleges “must take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment prior to the completion of the Title IX and Title IV investigation/resolution [emphasis added]. Appropriate steps may include separating the accused harasser and the complainant, providing counseling for the complainant and/or harasser, and/or taking disciplinary action against the harasser” [emphasis added]. [Note that the accused is not just the “respondent” but the “harasser”, prior to any investigation or adjudication.]
In other words, the new policy not only allows but requires that discipline be meted out against the (alleged) harasser prior to even an approximation of a fair and balanced hearing. And the campus tribunals hearing these complaints are required to use the “preponderance of evidence” (50.01%) standard, rather than the “clear and convincing evidence” standard necessary for a reasonable certainty of guilt.
And the new policy requires that college administrations conduct an independent investigation and “trial” of sexual assault allegations, even if a police investigation is ongoing and in spite of a legal determination of insufficient evidence to prosecute or even a clear finding of false allegation. Even more, the policy allows an accused person’s voluntary silence to be considered an admission of guilt, even though any statements made on the record during a college hearing can be used against the accused in a separate legal trial – thereby undermining the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In one of many dramatic examples of the injustice of such extra-legal campus courts (that some legitimately view as kangaroo courts), Sherry Warner Seefeld founded Families Advocating Campus Equality after years spent defending her son, Caleb Warner, who was suspended from the University of North Dakota in February 2010 after a classmate accused him of rape. He was never charged with a crime, and police ultimately issued a warrant for the accuser for filing a false complaint (which she evaded by leaving the state). Even so, the university, which used the lower “preponderance of evidence” standard to find Warner guilty, refused at first to grant him a rehearing.
Columbia University in the Spotlight
Though no American college is safe from the new Title IX dragnet, the one which has perhaps received the most national media attention is Columbia, because of an April 2013 allegation of a rape that allegedly occurred in August of 2012 between two students who had been close “friends with benefits”.
Though the accused, a German scholarship student named Paul Nungesser, was found not responsible for this and for charges filed by two other women as a concerted effort, since September 2014 the alleged “survivor”, Emma Sulkowicz, the well-do-to daughter of two Manhattan psychiatrists, began her “Carry that Weight” Mattress Project, and Nungesser began to receive social media threats on his life, with his name appearing on bathroom walls as a “serial rapist”.
Artnet called Carry that Weight “one of the most important artworks of the year”, while New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz named it the best art show of 2014. Sulkowicz received the National Organization for Women’s Susan B. Anthony Award and the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Ms. Wonder Award for the performance art project.
Though trying his best to remain out of the spotlight, Nungesser finally came forward and said in a December 2014 NY Times interview that the mattress performance is not an act of artistic expression, but rather “an act of bullying, a very public, very personal and very painful attack designed to hound him out of Columbia”. He says that protesters have followed him around, carrying mattresses to his classes, and posting photos and information about his everyday activities online. He has also noted that since Sulkowicz’s protest serves as her senior thesis, it is being supervised and supported by the Columbia faculty and administration.
If Nungesser is correct in his assessment, and the facts seem to support him, Columbia University is engaged in an official and gross violation of Title IX’s prohibition of gender-based harassment – perhaps the most public, prolonged and targeted act of sexual harassment in the annals of higher education. Yet the “Carry that Weight” project has received broad and positive attention, with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (a strong advocate for rape victims in Congress and sponsor of anti-rape legislation) inviting Emma Sulkowicz to attend Obama’s State of the Union address as her personal guest.
In fact, on April 7, 2014, a press release from the office of US Senator Gillibrand on the problem of campus sexual assault quoted Sulkowicz as saying, “My rapist – a serial rapist – still remains on campus, even though three of the women he assaulted reported him.” This was in spite of Nungesser being found “not responsible” for all three allegations by the end of 2013.
Timeline of Columbia’s Prime Time Rape Event
Aug. 27, 2012 – On the first day of Emma Sulkowicz’s sophomore year, an alleged sexual encounter took place with Paul Nungesser that both agree began as consensual (they were good friends and had engaged in consensual sex twice before).
Aug. 29, 2012 – Nungesser messaged Sulkowicz on Facebook to say, “Small shindig in our room tonight – bring cool freshmen.” Her response:
Also I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz
because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr
Sept. 9, 2012 – Sulkowicz initiated Facebook contact, asking Nungesser if he wanted to “hang out a little bit” before or after a meeting of a group they were both involved in, and concluding with:
whatever I want to see yoyououoyou
respond – I’ll get the message on ma phone
Oct. 3, 2012 – On Sulkowicz’s birthday, Nungesser sent her a greeting; she responded the next morning with, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”
[A screenshot of many of those emails can be found at THIS site.]
Early 2013 (after the winter break) – Nungesser sent Sulkowicz two brief Facebook messages (one of them saying ‘tu me manques’ – French for ‘I miss you’) to which she did not respond. She texted him in March and suggested getting together, they made tentative plans on which she did not follow up.
April 18, 2013 – Nungesser was called in to the Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct and was informed that Sulkowicz had filed a complaint on that date accusing him of sexual assault.
April 29, 2013 – Nungesser received an email sent to the listserv for Alpha Delta Phi (a fraternity to which both he and Suilkowicz belonged) from a senior officer of the fraternity announcing that a male ADP member and house resident had been accused of rape by a female member who was pressing charges within the university system, and that the Executive Board believes that the male member has flagrantly violated his vows, disregarded his obligations as a Member, and has transgressed the rules of life – violations that call for the immediate expulsion of the male undergraduate member, who would be offered a chance to resign voluntarily and that if he refused, a hearing would be held on his termination
May 3, 2013 – One day before the end of classes, Nungesser was given notice of two new complaints: one from a former (Fall 2011 – May 2012) girlfriend who was alleging that he had emotionally and sexually abused her for the duration of that relationship; and the other from a fellow resident at ADP who claimed that in April 2012 he had followed her upstairs during a house party, then grabbed her and tried to kiss her. Due to the second complaint, the Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct sent Nungesser an email instructing him to vacate his room at ADP the next day “to ensure the safety of all the parties involved in this matter” and move to another dorm for the brief remainder of the school year. It appeared that the two additional charges were filed by the women, in an act of collusion, after speaking with Sulkowicz.
July 2013 – The allegation from the former girlfriend was dismissed: a letter from the Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct informed Nungesser that “based on the information available from the investigation, there is not sufficient information to indicate that reasonable suspicion exists to believe that a policy violation occurred”.
Oct. 28, 2013 – The initial finding in favor of the ADP bartender, for which Nungesser received disciplinary probation, was reversed on appeal.
Oct. 29, 2013 – A hearing was held on Sulkowicz’s complaint.
Nov. 8, 2013 – Nungesser was found not responsible for the Sulkowicz complaint.
Dec. 2013 – Sulkowicz’s request for appeal was denied by the Dean.
Dec. 2013 – Shortly before flying to Germany for the winter break, Nungesser received an email from The New York Post giving him a few hours to respond for a story about his case (he did not) and then had to dodge Post photographers outside his building. The December 11 Post story described him as an entitled campus jock who had gotten away with multiple sexual assaults “because the school dropped the ball on investigating him”. He was, in fact, an international scholarship student from a feminist family.
Spring, 2014 – While Nungesser was in Prague, Sulkowicz went public, appearing at a press conference with Sen. Gillibrand and then on the front page of The New York Times. (The Times did not contact Nungesser for comment.)
April, 2014 – Sulkowicz and 22 other students from Columbia and Barnard (Columbia’s all-female campus) filed a Title IX complaint against the colleges over the failure of their sexual assault process.
April 7, 2014 – A press release from the office of US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on the problem of campus sexual assault quoted Sulkowicz as saying, “My rapist – a serial rapist – still remains on campus, even though three of the women he assaulted reported him.” – months after Nungesser was acquitted of all charges.
Early May, 2014 – Lists of campus “rapists” and “sexual-assault violators” began to show up in bathrooms in several Columbia dorms, with Nungesser’s name topping the list as a “serial rapist”.
May 14, 2014 – Sulkowicz filed a police report. In her comments to The Columbia Spectator, she said: “Maybe his name should be in the public record” and the Columbia Spectator story included Nungesser’s name, followed by an editorial rationalizing their decision to name him publicly.
Aug., 2014 – Nungesser voluntarily met and spoke with two Manhattan assistant district attorneys and was later informed that no charges would be brought against him. Sulkowicz elected not to pursue criminal charges (she has been quoted as saying that it would be “too draining”).
Sept. 2, 2014 – Sulkowicz began her “Carry that Weight” Mattress Project, and Nungesser began to receive social media threats on his life.
Oct. 29, 2014 – In a National Day of Action, students at more than 130 campuses worldwide participated in a “Carry that Weight” support action.
Dec. 21, 2014 – The NY Times interviews Paul Nungasser for his first public comment, in which he calls the Carry the Weight project an “act of bullying”.
Jan. 20, 2015 – Sulkowicz was Sen. Gillibrand’s guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress.
Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE) criticized Gillibrand for inviting Sulkowicz saying the honor was “undeserved” and noting that Sulkowicz “failed to establish any wrongdoing by the student she accused after a tribunal, an appeal at Columbia and an investigation by the New York Police Department.
Nungesser told the NY Magazine he was “dismayed and disappointed” to learn that Sulkowicz was invited to the event. “I am shocked to learn that Senator Gillibrand is actively supporting Ms. Sulkowicz’s defamation campaign against me by providing her with a public forum in which to broadcast her grave allegation. By doing so, Senator Gillibrand is participating in a harassment campaign against someone who, for good reason, has been found innocent by all investigating bodies.”
Jan. 2015 – The US Department of Education announced that Columbia was under federal investigation for possible violation of its Title IX obligations.
Feb. 3, 2015 – A Daily Beast article by journalist Cathy Young gave Nungesser’s side of the story and included email messages that had passed between him and Sulkowicz in the months after the alleged incident.
Feb. 9, 2015 – A Reason(dot)com article by Cathy Young, “Flawed Narratives, Perfect Victims, and the Columbia Rape Allegations: Can reviving the old myth that women never lie serve justice in any way?”, stated that Nungesser “has a pretty strong argument that he is a victim of grievous harassment, condoned by the university (which has given Sulkowicz carte blanche for her project) and enabled by politicians.”
Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her
In a February 3, 2015 article in The Daily Beast, Cathy Young, a Russian American journalist and writer who is a frequent contributor to the libertarian monthly Reason, and a regular columnist for Newsday and RealClearPolitics(dot)com, revealed Nungesser’s side of the story.
Here is a summary:
Paul Nungesser was cleared of a rape charge but faced a harsh trial-by-media. Now, as new details come to light, he’s speaking out and fighting back.
Paul Nungesser, a full-scholarship student from Germany, found himself at the center of a sexual-assault case that would eventually receive national media coverage and attract the attention of politicians and feminist leaders. Nungesser’s accuser, Emma Sulkowicz – famous for carrying her mattress on campus as a symbol of her burden as a victim and a protest against Columbia’s failure to expel the man she calls her rapist – has become the face of the college rape survivors’ movement. Sulkowicz’s protest has garnered her awards from the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation; last month, she attended the State of the Union address as a guest of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
While Nungesser’s name was first made public in May 2014 after Sulkowicz filed a police report, he did his best to keep a low profile until last December, when he spoke to The New York Times for a story that focused on his and his accusers’ conflicting perceptions of the case and on Nungesser’s pariah status at Columbia.
While Sulkowicz has always said that they started out having consensual sex, her account diverges drastically from Nungesser’s at this point. According to Sulkowicz, he suddenly and brutally assaulted her, then picked up his clothes and left without a word, leaving her stunned and shattered on the bed. According to Nungesser, they briefly engaged in anal intercourse by mutual agreement, then went on to engage in other sexual activity and fell asleep. He says that he woke up early in the morning and went back to his own room while Sulkowicz was still sleeping.
Yet Nungesser says that for weeks after that night, he and Sulkowicz maintained a cordial relationship, and says she seemingly never indicated that anything was amiss.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Sulkowicz said that by the time of [the apparently loving email] exchange [with Nungesser], she had already visited the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct to report Nungesser. “They asked me if I’d ever ‘tried talking it out’ with Paul,” Sulkowicz wrote. “So, because they suggested it, I sent him a text message listing a few times during which I would be free and said that I was ready to talk. However, when he texted me back, it hit me that there was no way I could meet him one-on-one somewhere. It triggered so much pain and fear that I couldn’t bring myself to text him back.”
Columbia’s Title IX coordinator, Melissa Rooker, did not comment directly on Sulkowicz’s case but pointed The Daily Beast to the school’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students, which states that the office never recommends informal resolution for sexual-assault complaints.
Even before the investigation began, the charge had immediate consequences. Nungesser was placed on restricted access to university buildings other than his own dorm; these “interim measures” made it extremely difficult to continue in his campus job as an audiovisual technician (especially since he was not allowed to explain why he was under these restrictions) and to attend the counseling sessions he had started. Meanwhile, it became obvious that despite confidentiality rules, news of the accusation was spreading. Within a few days, Nungesser says he was being conspicuously shunned by many fellow students.
Of course, to Sulkowicz’s supporters, the case is a travesty of malignant distrust toward women who accuse men of sexual violence, all the more blatant when it’s multiple women accusing the same man.
Last April, a press release from the office of Sen. Gillibrand on the problem of campus sexual assault quoted Sulkowicz as saying, “My rapist – a serial rapist – still remains on campus, even though three of the women he assaulted reported him.”
Actually, only one of the charges against Nungesser was a clear allegation of rape. What’s more, there are indications that the accusations may not have been completely independent of each other.
A fairly detailed account of the second and third complaints against Nungesser, based on interviews with his accusers, can be found in a January 2014 story on the university’s handling of sexual-assault charges posted at Bwog, the Columbia online student publication. According to the article, Sulkowicz (identified as “Sara,” since she had not gone public at the time) ran into Nungesser’s former girlfriend, “Natalie”, at a campus party at some point before she filed the complaint; having “heard rumors of their messy relationship”, she “couldn’t help but wonder about the nature of their split”. (Natalie did not respond to a request for an interview, while Sulkowicz did not respond to a question about her interaction with Natalie.)
The Bwog story also says that the third accuser, whom it identifies by the pseudonym “Josie”, decided to bring a complaint after “a mutual friend” of hers and Nungesser’s told her he had been named in a sexual-assault complaint. The article provides no clue as to the identity of this friend. But Nungesser says that at the hearing on Josie’s charge, the ADP officer who had sought to have him expelled from the society openly admitted that she had encouraged Josie to come forward.
Nungesser’s claim about the ADP officer’s testimony is confirmed by “Michael Roberson” (not his real name), who attended the hearing as his official supporter. Columbia rules allow both parties in a sexual-assault case to have a supporter from the university community who assists them in a quasi-advocacy capacity; “Roberson”, then a graduate student who had no prior acquaintance with Nungesser, took on this role as part of his service in a mentoring program for undergraduates. While he now believes that the charges against Nungesser are “completely false”, he stresses that he “did not have that impression going in” and undertook the task simply out of commitment to due process for those accused of offenses.
The charge brought by Josie was the only one on which Nungesser was initially found “responsible”, with a sentence of disciplinary probation. But that finding was later overturned; Nungesser’s appeal cited various errors and improprieties, including the admission of hearsay, and claimed that the burden of proof – “preponderance of the evidence” – had not been met. When the complaint was referred for a new hearing, Josie decided to withdraw from the process. (The New York Times article suggested that this was because she had already graduated and was unable to participate, but in fact, Josie had already graduated at the time of the first hearing.) The second hearing cleared Nungesser on that charge as well.
Nungesser has always staunchly denied that anything happened between him and Josie; he says he attended the party but never followed her upstairs and certainly never groped her or tried to kiss her, and that the accusation was a ploy to get him kicked out of ADP.
Nungesser is also emphatic that “there was never any kind of abuse whatsoever, not of a physical nature, not of an emotional nature” in his relationship with Natalie, which began early in their freshman year, in October 2011, and was over by the end of the spring semester. He acknowledges that it was “a really difficult relationship” in which he “completely loved” Natalie in the beginning but later struggled with his waning feelings for her. Natalie was apparently wrestling with her own personal issues: The Bwog article mentions that she “was suffering from serious depression before meeting [Nungesser] and had recently ended an emotionally abusive relationship”. That story also makes clear that Natalie did not come to see her relationship with Nungesser as abusive, or their sexual relations as non-consensual, until “months after their breakup”. Meanwhile, Nungesser says that while Natalie was angry at him after he decided to end the relationship, they “talked things out” in the fall of 2012 and remained on friendly terms for some time after that.
Natalie’s complaint was dismissed in July 2013. The finding in Josie’s favor was reversed on appeal on Oct. 28. On the next day, a hearing was finally held on Sulkowicz’s complaint.
That hearing figures prominently in Sulkowicz’s claim that she was wronged by the university during the disciplinary process; she has said that she was subjected to humiliating and needlessly graphic interrogation… But “Roberson”, the supporter who sat at Nungesser’s side during the hearing and watched Sulkowicz’s testimony on closed-circuit television, strongly disputes the notion that there was anything inappropriate about her questioning.
Nungesser has his own gripes about the hearing. Among other things, he says he was never allowed to present the Facebook exchanges, which he regards as strongly exculpatory, to the panel. The hearing, he claims, had to focus exclusively on the facts of the alleged attack in an attempt to decide whose version of this event was more credible. Despite this, and despite a low “preponderance of the evidence” standard which requires adjudicators to find in favor of the complainant if they believe it is even slightly more likely than not than the assault occurred, Nungesser was cleared. In late November, the university upheld that decision, rejecting Sulkowicz’s appeal. Nungesser says he now felt free to pursue his earlier plans to spend a semester in the Czech Republic studying at a Prague film school. But he was about to face a new trial – in the media and in the court of public opinion.
In spring, while Nungesser was in Prague, Sulkowicz went public, appearing at a press conference with Sen. Gillibrand and then on the front page of The New York Times.
Nungesser’s anonymity was increasingly precarious: In early May, lists of campus “rapists” and “sexual-assault violators” began to show up in bathrooms in several Columbia dorms, with his name topping the list as a “serial rapist”. Then, on May 14, Sulkowicz filed a police report… and The Columbia Spectator story included Nungesser’s name.
Sulkowicz ultimately elected not to pursue criminal charges. Yet, as Nungesser returned to the Columbia campus, the notoriety of his case exploded with Sulkowicz’s mattress protest.
Sulkowicz’s act, which is also her senior project for her visual arts degree, has been praised as both protest and art. To Nungesser, however, it is something else altogether: harassment. “It’s explicitly designed to bully me into leaving the school – she has said so repeatedly,” he says, referring to Sulkowicz’s statement that she will carry the mattress until either Nungesser leaves Columbia or they both graduate.
“What really struck us as outrageously unfair,” says Nungesser’s father, Andreas Probosch, a schoolteacher who speaks near-perfect English, “was the university’s non-reaction to Emma Sulkowicz’s public campaign. After investigating the allegations against Paul for seven months they found them not credible, but when Ms. Sulkowicz went to the press and claimed Columbia had swept everything under the rug, why didn’t they stand by his side and say, ‘We do have a process and we followed that process and we stand by the acquittal’? Instead they declined to comment and just threw him under the bus.”
For Nungesser’s mother, Karin, the situation is laden with additional irony as a self-described committed feminist. Paul Nungesser’s comment to The New York Times, “My mother raised me as a feminist”, caused predictable controversy; but his mother, at least, agrees. She points out that she and her husband took an equal role in parenting and that gender issues, which were part of her journalistic work, were often discussed in their home when her son was growing up: “I think we did not just tell him that men and women are created equal, but we lived it.” What she views as the failure to check the facts in this case appalls her not only as a feminist but as a journalist.
It is likely that some facts in this case will never be known. Nungesser’s feminist upbringing does not make him incapable of sexual assault, and his former girlfriend’s reported psychological problems prior to their relationship do not mean that he did not abuse her. The reported interaction between Nungesser’s alleged victims does not necessarily prove that they unduly influenced each other’s stories.
Yet this case is far from as clear-cut as much of the media coverage has made it out to be. And if Nungesser is not a sexual predator, he could be seen as a true victim: a man who has been treated as guilty even after he has proved his innocence.
Flawed Narratives, Perfect Victims, and the Columbia Rape Allegations
In a February 9, 2015 article at Reason(dot)com, Cathy Young asked “Can reviving the old myth that women never lie serve justice in any way?”
Here is a summary:
In recent months, Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University senior who carries her mattress around campus as a protest against the university’s non-expulsion of her alleged rapist (and an art project for her senior thesis) has been hailed as a heroine in the battle against campus sexual assault. Last week, The Daily Beast published my article about the case – based mainly on interviews with the alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, and materials he provided – which raises serious questions about the pro-Sulkowicz narrative, partly because of her friendly behavior toward Nungesser for weeks after the alleged rape. The response from the rape-culture feminist camp has been to argue that there’s no “right” way to deal with sexual assault, generating a #TheresNoPerfectVictim Twitter hashtag. But it’s a straw (wo)man argument. Yes, of course victims deal with trauma in different, often startling ways. However, “no perfect victim” doesn’t mean that anything an alleged rape victim says or does, no matter how it defies common sense, reason and human experience, must be rationalized as “that’s what some victims do!” in deference to the commandment, “Believe the survivor.”
I should add that when I first read the New York Times account last May of Sulkowicz’s claim that the university badly botched its investigation of her complaint, I thought she probably had a legitimate grievance. She was alleging a violent rape by a man who had been reported for sexual assault by two other women but had always managed to beat the rap. (At the time, my main reaction was that such cases need to be handled by real cops and courts, not campus “gender equity” bureaucrats and pseudo-judicial panels.) But as I read more details of the story, those details raised more and more questions.
At this point, I cannot, of course, definitively state that the allegations against Nungesser are false. But there is more than enough doubt of his guilt to warrant exoneration not only in a criminal case – it’s safe to say that no grand jury in the land would indict him, unless it was made up of gender studies majors – but under the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard by which Columbia adjudicates sexual misconduct complaints.
The other two complaints, filed shortly after Sulkowicz’s charge and clearly influenced by it, turned out to be riddled with problems as well.
In spite of all these murky circumstances, Nungesser, “outed” last May, has been not only ostracized on campus but treated as a presumptive criminal in the media – with the negative attention magnified by Sulkowicz’s newfound fame as a mattress-toting activist – and branded a “serial rapist” in a press release by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. If he is innocent of any crime, and he may well be, he has a pretty strong argument that he is a victim of grievous harassment, condoned by the university (which has given Sulkowicz carte blanche for her project) and enabled by politicians.
When I was working on my story, I had no doubt that the true believers’ response would be to argue that nothing in the record discredits or even casts doubt on the charges against Nungesser, that rape victims often behave in ways that don’t fit stereotypical expectations – especially when attacked by someone they cared about – and may often remain in denial about the rape and act affectionately toward the rapist.
It didn’t take long. The tone was set by a piece in the online publication Mic by feminist blogger Julie Zeilinger deploring “the narrative of the ‘perfect victim’…
In Sulkowicz’s case, the claim is that an Ivy League student with abundant social resources was suddenly and horrifically attacked by a male friend who had never been violent before – and that she went on to exchange chatty, flirty messages with him and offer to have a “chill sesh” two days later and continued to have similar interactions for another two months. I have yet to see a single expert say that this is common behavior in rape victims.
Do communications – even affectionate communications – with the accused after the alleged rape automatically discredit a rape report? No, of course not; it depends on the communications and the circumstances. In these specific circumstances, you’d have to be a hardcore ideologue to deny that these specific communications are highly relevant and highly damaging to Sulkowicz’s case.
It is also useful to recall that only a couple of months ago, virtually identical arguments were made on behalf of the now-debunked Rolling Stone story of a brutal fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia. The “discrepancies” and improbabilities in Jackie’s story, advocates asserted, were typical of victims’ reaction to trauma, and only “rape apologists” and “denialists” would use them to brand the story a hoax.
The advocates’ reaction to the new evidence in the Columbia University case makes it plain that for many feminists, disregarding any evidence or argument that may interfere with “believing the survivor” is now a matter of principle. The danger of such an ideology is self-evident. In his 1995 book, With Justice for Some: Victims’ Rights in Criminal Trials, veteran Columbia University law professor George Fletcher wrote, “It is important to defend the interests of women as victims, but not to go so far as to accord women complaining of rape a presumption of honesty and objectivity.” Striking that balance is an essential task for the justice system; to abandon it is to endorse a lynch-mob mentality.
[I’ve covered the story of the U-VA Rolling Stone gang rape hoax exhaustively at Yellow Journalism and the Meme of “Rape Culture” – “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” ]
Columbia Mattress Rape Case is not Justice – It’s Shaming without Proof
In a February 8, 2015 opinion piece published in the NY Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, former Wall Street Journal editor and writer whose work focuses on higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture, wrote “It’s time to put down the mattress.”
Here is a summary:
Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz, who claims her close friend and former sexual partner Paul Nungesser raped her, has been carrying a mattress around campus for months to symbolize her status as a victim and remind everyone her alleged attacker remains on campus. (The mattress was also earning her course credit for performance art, but never mind that.)
Turns out there’s another side of the story. Writing in The Daily Beast, the intrepid Cathy Young notes that Nungesser has been cleared by a campus court. And since Sulkowicz declined to press criminal charges, that’s about as close as he’s going to get to an official vindication.
But what he should really get is an apology from the media and the cabal of feminists, including Gillibrand, who have supported his accuser unquestioningly.
But, really, the problem is this: It’s considered offensive to even ask a single question of a woman who says she has been sexually assaulted. Because rape is not a crime like armed robbery or murder anymore. Rape is a political statement by the patriarchy trying to silence women. It doesn’t matter what actually happened. What matters is what you think happened after you’ve taken enough women’s-studies courses.
That’s why Lena Dunham got away with publishing a book accusing an easily identifiable student on campus of rape without any fact checkers or lawyers flagging the passage. It’s why no one at Rolling Stone demanded the reporter verify the accuser’s story. And it’s why the word of a girl with a mattress strapped to her back is treated like the Holy Bible.
Feminists complain that by putting assault victims through this barrage of questions we are shaming them. As Sulkowicz told the news site Mic: “It’s an awful feeling where this reporter is digging through my personal life. At this point, I didn’t realize that she’s extremely anti-feminist and would do this in order to shame me.”
But shame is exactly what these accusers are hoping to bring on their alleged attackers. By refusing to report these matters to the police instead of the campus Keystone Kops and The New York Times, they are supposedly saving themselves from the pain of a trial, but really what they are doing is saving themselves from having to answer any questions and destroying men’s lives with lies and innuendo.
When Reality Imitates Fiction
Every year The School at Columbia University, an independent K-8 school, puts on a musical. The 2014 production was Once Upon A Mattress, a spoof of the Princess And The Pea. The main characters are Winniefred the princess, Prince Dauntless, Queen Aggravain, and the silent king.
Carry that Weight, or The Mattress Project, is similarly an apparently fictional production featuring a self-righteous “princess”, an unintimidated “prince”, an aggravated and aggravating “queen” feministra, and a silent male archetype of the “king”.
The “princess” has made a national production out of what amounted to little more than a “pea” under her mattress, which would have the qualities of a Disney fantasy if it weren’t quite so real for the “prince” and for the reputation of the “king” of benign masculinity which he represents.
Addendum – The Nungesser Lawsuit
On April 23, 2015, Paul Nungesser filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Columbia University, its board of trustees, President Lee C. Bollinger and Professor Jon Kessler (who approved Emma Sulkowicz’ “art project” Carry That Weight). The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the harm it says was done to Nungesser’s reputation, his school opportunities and his job prospects. Sulkowicz is not named as a defendant in the suit.
“Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in “an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, and offensive learning and living environment”, the lawsuit said. “Day-to-day life is unbearably stressful, as Emma and her mattress parade around campus each and every day.”
As a result of publicity that resulted in media reports in 35 countries, the lawsuit said, Nungesser “has been subjected to severe, pervasive and objectively objectionable harassing and threatening behavior by other Columbia students, believing that Paul is a ‘serial rapist’, whenever Paul has appeared at university activities”.
The lawsuit added that a Columbia-owned web site portrayed Sulkowicz’s version of the story – that Nungesser, a former friend, sexually assaulted her in 2012 – as fact. It said that the university allowed Sulkowicz to carry her mattress into classes, the library and on campus-provided transportation, and that Sulkowicz’s pledge to carry her mattress at graduation may prevent Nungesser’s parents from participating in the ceremony.
“By refusing to protect Paul Nungesser,” the lawsuit reads, “Columbia University first became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it.”
The complaint also said he wants to stay in the United States, where he has been dating a girlfriend for more than a year, and is seeking consulting work in New York, though job prospects have been “severely jeopardized” by the school’s support of Sulkowicz.
In an email responding to a request for comment, Sulkowicz wrote:
“I think it’s ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece.”
“It’s ridiculous that he would read it 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. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?”
As the timeline above makes evident, it was Emma Sulkowicz who went to extraordinary lengths to publicly defame and shame Paul Nungasser, who tried to keep out of the public limelight as long as he could.
And, as common sense would inform us, the purpose of higher education is not to heal from real or imagined traumas, but to grow intellectually and emotionally into a responsible person capable of achieving self-respect without building it upon the destruction of another’s reputation.
Following is the section of the Nungasser lawsuit document that details the factual allegations.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION
Paul’s Initial Thriving Experience at Columbia
When Paul was accepted at Columbia University as a John Jay Scholar four years ago, he and his whole family were delighted. At that time, Paul was a curious and open 19-year-old with a wide range of interests and was eager to contribute to the community of one of the most prestigious universities in the country with his multitude of interests, which he wished to expand and develop in return. His parents were convinced that Columbia would be the place where Paul would receive important stimuli for his academic and personal advancement. Paul and his parents imagined Columbia University to he a place where Paul’s critical thinking, his alert mind, and his intellectual curiosity would he fostered, and where he would make experiences that would nurture and strengthen him for life.
In the first two of his years at Columbia University, before the events at issue in this case began, Paul was extensively involved in student life at Columbia. He participated in COOP, ADP, lightweight rowing, the WBAR radio show, stage design, and student film production group (an initiative started by Paul). He also had an on-campus paid job as an audiovisual technician.
Paul was also active in many social events, and he had a lot of friends. One of those friends was Emma Sulkowicz (“Emma”).
Emma’s Intimate Conversations with Paul
Paul’s relationship with Emma began platonically. They were just friends
On December 16, 2011, Emma sent private Facebook messenger messages as a friend to Paul, asking him to speak with Emma’s sexual partner, John Doe, on her behalf, to urge John Doe to use condoms when he had sex with women other than Emma The conversation, in relevant part, is as follows
Emma: John Doe and i are all cool – hahahah – i was excited.
Paul: oh thanks god good to hear – so wats da nuse
Emma: he and i went to an art opening and tacos tonight – and we talked it out – like im not gonna force him to be exclusive but i was like “just use condoms with other girls” – so yeah – he’ll use condoms if he fucks other girls.
Paul: … its just i mean im glad you talked it out and stuff and im not the one trying to kill the boner here but how are you gonna have any idea whether he actually uses a condom with other girls or not.
Emma: yeah i realize that’s true – i mean there’s a lot of faith involved – i feel like he needs another boy to tell him to use condoms – can you, in like your next bro talk, just be like yo, use condoms when you fuck other girls.
Paul: i have tried to talk to him – thats why i talked to you in the first place cause i felt i wasn’t getting anywhere.
Emma: oh forrealz? – goddamnit – yeah he’s totally not gonna do it then
Emma: why can’t he just only love me
Paul: man i feel kinda bad as f-* * * puttin you through this.. its just i really dunno wat 2do hu?
Emma: hu? no you should feel proud of being a good guy
Paul: naah not so sure meh
Emma: no seriously, i’m thankful
Paul: but yeah i guess, its just im kincla overwhelmed, thought John Doe was a good guy just acting tough you know
Emma: yr saying that you thought he was a good guy but now you’re seeing he’s a straight up bad guy?
Paul: not straight up bad – but like why is he doing this? like maybe at the end of the day its none of my fuckin business, but then again I feel like it is
Emma: I don’t knowwwww – do you think he’s going to be hooking up with more girls or is it a one time thing that he’s gotten over????
Paul: i have no clue, like really.
Emma and Paul began having frequent intimate talks about very personal things. During one of those conversations, she told Paul that she had been raped while in high school. Paul was distraught to hear this and offered her assistance in seeking support for Emma.
While they were still freshmen and before any physical relationship had begun, Emma broached the topic of anal sex with Paul by private facehook messenger as follows:
Emma: fuck me in the butt
Paul: eehm maybe not? jk I miss your face tho
Emma: hahahah you don’t miss my lopsided ass?
Paul: ido. just not that much. good I am actually too tired to choose a movie *god also to tired to spell apparently
Emma and Paul’s Friendship and Sexual Encounters
While they were still freshman at Columbia, Paul and Emma progressed to becoming “friends with benefits.” The two shared Emma’s bed for platonic sleepovers, and then, on two separate occasions during the spring of their freshman year, they engaged in sexual intercourse.
On the second occasion that they had sexual intercourse that spring, Emma asked Paul to engage in anal sex with her. Paul stated that he had no experience with it. Emma said she had enjoyed it in the past with other men and wanted him to proceed. The two engaged in anal sex as part of their foreplay. They then progressed to vaginal intercourse.
Following their sexual encounters on both occasions, the two discussed their relationship. Both times, they concluded that they would remain primarily as friends and that they would not enter into a monogamous romantic relationship. An important factor in their decision was that Emma had previously been having sex with Paul’s close friend, John Doe. Despite broaching the topic of anal sex with Paul, Emma later denied doing so.
During the summer following their freshman year, Emma frequently sent private Facebook messages to Paul, who was then living abroad. She messaged Paul that she had tested positive for an STD after having had sex at a party “with both John Doe and his best friend Joe”.
Emma further communicated to Paul stories and allegations of sexual abuse that she had experienced from other sexual partners. She stated:
“i’ve officially had sex with all of John Doe’ best friends. . . – did lotsa drugs – jk – just got very drunk – well anyways – now I have an std– i actually hate John Doe like if a girl is about to puke – don’t put your unprotected dick into her. . . I realy don’t want to be known as the girl who contracted an std because she was drunk you know? it is more his fault for fucking me unconscious – i mean i was conscious but clearly not in my right mind. . . i was literally blackout. . . like I puked all over the place.”
In response to Emma telling Paul about her having a sexually transmitted disease, Paul invited Emma to come to Berlin and talk to him about it. Paul had wanted to comfort Emma in the troubles she was experiencing.
Emma also messaged Paul frequently throughout that summer with messages including: “wuv youuuu, ” – “i miss and love you btw” – “Paul i really miss you – “i really mis you – “Paul I wuv you so much. Please stay w me foevah” – “paul I miss you so much” – “like u know when you tell people you miss them and you don’t really mean it? – i actually mean it – I miss you so much – ahhh” – “pookie – i miss you – “I LOVE YOU – SO MUCH” – “I MISS YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING – “I love youuuu” – “and l would LOVE to have you here – omg –we could snuggle” – “PAUL I MISS YOU PAUL I MISS YOU PAUL I MISS YOU PAULLL” – “DUDE I MISS YOU SO MUCH” “I love you Paul!!!!!!.” These messages spanned from May 2012 through August of 2012, and similar messages continued until October 2012.
When Paul messaged Emma that he had been seeing a woman while abroad, Emma typed “are u guyz in luvvvvv?” Paul responded “yeah seed time – *sad – well i dunno – I mean its not gonna last.” Emma asked “are you guys a thing?” and Paul responded that it was “more like a summer fling if you now what i mean.”
On August 21, 2012, just prior to their return to Columbia campus for sophomore year, Emma wrote to Paul, “i want to snuggle with you – and talk about our summers – but not right now – I also love you.”
On August 27, 2012, on their first night back at Columbia campus, (the “Sophomore Sexual Encounter”), Emma invited Paul to her room. Once again, they engaged in consensual sex in Emma’s bed. The Sophomore Sexual Encounter involved vaginal and anal sex, followed by oral intercourse.
Two days later on August 29, 2012, Paul Facebook messaged Emma to invite her to a gathering in his room, stating, “small shindig in our room tonight bring cool freshmen.” Emma messaged back four minutes later, “lol yussss also ifeel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz.” Paul immediately agreed, writing “word”. Emma continued, “because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmerrrrr.” Paul responded “when are you guys coming through.” Emma wrote, “I’ll probs come at 10:45. Is that cool?”. Paul wrote back “sweet – yeah – you at the fencing thing.” Emma wrote back “Yeah I’m just gonna chill with them for a bit haha is adp a rager?”3 Paul wrote back “naah – a little too many guys right now haha – so bring some peepz.” Emma wrote back “Okay let them know I’ll be der w dafemales spon.” At 11:06 p.m., she messaged Paul “Ack are people still there? Heading over now.”
Paul remained at the ADP party but he and Emma did not see one another. The next day, he messaged her at 4:55 p.m., “part II tonight – you’re coming?” She messaged him back seconds later, “lol i came and left already!!!” Paul responded, “lolcats – when were you here – I dont believe you its not the truth – to the tune of pretty women.”
Two weeks later, on September 9, 2012, Emma messaged Paul, “I wanna see yoyououoyou” Thereafter, Paul sent Emma a happy birthday message as follows ’oh hai. happy born day! you better be celebrating muchos, no? also: donde estas tu i mi viva – see i’m so desperate with out you, i even try to speak spanish, – anywho: merry happy days!” Emma responded, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”
Emma’s Efforts For Affection From Paul Go Unreciprocated
As is evident from Emma’s Facebook messages to Paul during the summer prior to their sophomore year, Emma’s yearning for Paul had become very intense. Emma repeatedly messaged Paul throughout that summer that she loved and missed him. She was quick to inquire whether he was in love with the woman he was seeing abroad.
Thereafter, she continued pursuing him, reiterating that she loved him. However, when Paul did not reciprocate these intense feelings, and instead showed interest in dating other women, Emma became viciously angry.
Emma Files A False Complaint With The University
More than seven months after the Sophomore Sexual Encounter with Paul, Emma filed a gender-based misconduct incident report (the ’Report”) at Columbia’s Office of Gender Based Misconduct. Shockingly, she alleged that during the Sophomore Sexual Encounter with Paul, “he began to choke her, slapped her face, pinned her arms and penetrated her anally. She said she had screamed for him to stop, but that he would not. She also stated that “It could take two minutes for it to stop, or he could have strangled me to death.”
Upon information and belief, Emma alleged that Paul pinned down her arms above her head while also strangling her throat and hitting her across the face She further alleged that he walked out of her room immediately thereafter.
Columbia proceeded with an investigation (the “Emma investigation”) that spanned seven months and culminated with a two-hour hearing (the “Hearing”), which look place on October 29, 2013, at which Emma and Paul both testified. At the conclusion of the Hearing, Columbia discredited Emma’s entire story, finding Paul “not responsible” for the alleged “non-consensual sexual intercourse.”
Paul readily prevailed against Emma’s false allegations in spite of his being precluded from presenting Emma’s Facebook messages either during the Emma Investigation or at the Hearing itself. Nonetheless, Paul was vindicated despite the fact that Emma’s burden of proof was only a “preponderance of the evidence standard” (i.e. more likely than not).
Pursuant to the University’s Confidentiality Policy, Emma, Paul, and all other persons involved in the Investigation and Hearing were to keep all aspects of it confidential.
As stated in the complaint letter served to Paul on April 18, 2013, the university will make all reasonable efforts to maintain the confidentiality/privacy of the involved parties you should use the utmost discretion and not discuss the evidence with others
Emma’s Failed Efforts to Bolster Her False Complaint
In an effort to bolster her case, and driven by her feelings of rejection and interest in making a public impact and statement, Emma approached several women with whom she was friendly, encouraging them to each report Paul to the University for sexual misconduct. Two women acquiesced.
The first, Jane Doe #1, who was also a member of ADP, filed her complaint against Paul at the end of April or early May 2013, shortly before her graduation. Jane Doe #1 erroneously and wrongfully alleged that a full year prior to her filing (i.e. during the end of her junior year, which was the end of Paul’s freshman year), Paul had grabbed her at a party and tried to kiss her. This allegation was sheer fabrication. Columbia agreed with Paul, ultimately finding him “not responsible” for the alleged “non-consensual sexual contact.”’
Jane Doe #2, who had been Paul’s girlfriend for several months while they were both freshman (prior to Paul’s sexual intercourse with Emma), was also enticed to file a false report against Paul, alleging sexual misconduct. Jane Doe #2 reported that she had the impression while Paul was her boyfriend, that she could only see him if she had sex with him, and thus she felt obligated to have sex with him. She never alleged physical coercion, violence, or rape. She filed her complaint at the same time as Jane Doe #1. Columbia found a lack of “sufficient information to indicate that reasonable suspicion exists” of any alleged “intimate partner violence” and thus terminated Jane Doe #2’s investigation without any need for a hearing.
Throughout the course of the Emma Investigation conducted by Columbia, Paul’s request to be represented by an attorney was denied by Columbia, important evidence was excluded, and Paul faced immediate social isolation due to the interim measures and Confidentiality Policy on Columbia campus. Since Paul’s friends and resources on campus were the only ones Paul had in the United States, Paul remained in complete social isolation throughout the course of the Emma Investigation and beyond.
In contrast, Columbia fully accommodated Emma’s needs and desires throughout the entire Emma Investigation. For example, Emma was able to continuously alter and tweak important facts in her allegations, such as dates and places of alleged events, and “witness testimony” in support of Emma’s allegations were exclusively hearsay statements with no first person knowledge of the alleged events.
Despite many challenges and accommodations to his accuser, Paul was found not responsible.
During the hearing, Emma stated repeatedly that her goal was to have Paul expelled from Columbia. On appeal of her case against Paul, Columbia affirmed its decision. Thus, all three cases terminated with Paul’s name officially cleared in all respects, and Emma’s scheme to have Paul expelled had failed.
The Baselessness of Eimna ’s Claims
Columbia reached its decision clearing Paul of charges multiples times and for good reason. Emma was never able to present any evidence whatsoever to support her defamatory and serious allegations. Although Emma claims that she was almost strangled to death and subject to a brutal anal rape in her dorm room in Summer 2012, there is not one single piece of evidence that could confirm her severe allegations:
- There were no witnesses to Emma’s alleged screams in the badly soundproofed student dorm.
- There was no medical report, even though an attack as massive as described would with great likelihood have caused serious injuries in dire need of medical attention and would have left visible bruises on Emma’s body for days.
- There was no testimony from Emma’s friends or family members who could confirm such injuries or changes in her behavior caused by discomfort from these injuries. On the contrary, in the days following the alleged attack, Emma participated in various social events on campus, such as parties with friends and social events with the fencing team. Given the multitude of social contact, any physical injuries would have likely been noticed by people on campus or those close to Emma.
- There were varying accounts by Emma as to whether and when she had spoken to anyone about the alleged assault: At times she claims she hadn’t spoken to anyone, not even her parents, at other times she claims that she told a few good friends. Her latest claim was that she spoke to a friend days after the alleged event who had to make clear to her that being nearly strangled to death and being penetrated anally while struggling against it and screaming “NO” constituted rape.’
- There was also no evidence whatsoever that Emma’s attitude or behavior regarding Paul had changed after the alleged incident. On the contrary, Paul was able to present numerous love messages that Emma wrote to him before and after the alleged event with no apparent change in mood. Even though these messages were excluded as exculpatory evidence from the investigation, Columbia was informed about their existence and their content.
Columbia was also informed that Emma had a history of alleging of sexual assault. During the investigation, Paul had provided further messages from Emma to Columbia, in which she alleged abuse and sexual assault by other students at Columbia University, including her former boyfriend. These messages, too, were excluded from evidence. Nonetheless Columbia was informed that Emma had a history of alleging to be a victim of sexual assault and should have included this knowledge in their assessment of Emma’s harassment campaign in the course of the events.
Emma Goes Public With Her Scheme Branding Paul a “Rapist”
Emma’s efforts to brand Paul a “serial rapist” had begun during the Emma Investigation conducted by Columbia. Since then, those efforts have intensified.
In April 2013, days after the Emma investigation had begun, Emma orchestrated that the President of ADP would notify its alumni board and several members that an alleged rapist was living at ADP. This notification occurred.
On December 3, 2013, only a few days after Emma’s appeal had been rejected, Paul was ambushed in front of his dorm by reporters from the New York Post and followed by a paparazzo on his way to class. At that time, Emma was already being advised by a publicist and/or a lawyer with great media expertise, something she had threatened in her appeal letter in November 2013. Columbia was put on notice by Paul’s parents’ mail to president Bollinger, even before the article was published. The article in the New York Post made clear that all three accusers had spoken to the author Tara Palmeri and identified Paul to the reporters. This clear breach of confidentiality had no consequences for the accusers.
There were also no consequences for the next breaches of confidentiality. Starting at the latest in December 2013, Emma forwarded confidential information, including Paul’s name, to Anna Bahr, a student reporter and activist, whose subsequent article appeared on January 23, 2014. This article did not include Paul’s name, but did make him identifiable to most of his peers on campus.
What made this breach of confidentiality even more hurtful and unjust was the fact that Paul, who was in Berlin on his way to his semester abroad in Prague with the prestigious NYU Tisch program, was still under the confidentiality policy and faced disciplinary action if he violated this policy. He also had been advised by Columbia University to ignore the press publicity and to stay silent when Anna Bahr reached out to Paul for comment in the preparation of her article.
Even though the Anna Bahr article generated more than 60 comments in its first 11 hours online, Columbia University did not inform Paul of its appearance and did not do anything else with respect to what was obviously a major breach of the University’s confidentiality policy. Only after Paul complained to Columbia University about this new and massive breach of confidentiality did University officials express concern and note the online witch-hunt started in the comment section of the article.
Columbia University, however, again did not penalize any of the accusers, who once more had blatantly violated the University’s confidentiality policy.
Instead, President Bollinger only two weeks later issued a statement16 in which he announced a change of Columbia’s policies with regard to sexual assault. He also announced that data on sexual assault and Gender based Misconduct will be released — which had been a demand by activists at Columbia. The timing implies that this was direct reaction to the criticism from Anna Bahr’s article, as is noted in the press:
Columbia University will release data about sexual assault complaints after pressure from students, President Lee Bollinger announced Wednesday afternoon. Columbia is the latest in a string of prestigious universities facing student action and scrutiny over the way it handles assaults on campus.
The controversy came to a head when Columbia’s student magazine, The Blue and White, launched an in-depth series featuring stories from assault Victims last week. In the first installment, a junior who was raped by a close friend described her decision to report to the school rather than the police: “I heard so many horrible stories about how badly the police handle cases like these. Columbia also advertises its resources so much that I thought they would really listen to me. I thought I would be taken care of.”
At the latest at this time it was clear for Emma and the other two accusers that they did not have to fear any disciplinary action for her defamatory breach of confidentiality. This knowledge becomes a booster for the harassment campaign against Paul by Emma and her advisors.
Thereafter, media stories began to emerge that did not include Pauls’ name but insidiously included enough identifiable information to reveal him to other Columbia students.
Emma’s first public press statement was in April 2014, at a press conference with Senator Gillibrand at Columbia University. At that press conference, Emma stated: “My rapist – a serial rapist – still remains on campus…” and “Every day I live in fear of seeing him.” However, at that time Paul was abroad in Prague, and was not in fact on Columbia campus. Emma, who was still Facebook friends with Paul at the time, easily knew this information as it was posted about throughout Paul’s Facebook page.
President Bollinger, instead of correcting Emma’s false and defamatory statement, published a statement in which he bowed to the activists’ demands by announcing further measures.
In May 2014, a so-called “rapist-list” appeared in several Columbia bathrooms, listing Jean-Paul Nungesser’19 as a “serial rapist”. Fliers with the same list were circulated at several Columbia student events. Paul was never notified about these events by Columbia administrators.
In Emma’s May 2014 Time Magazine op-ed piece, entitled “My Rapist is Still on Campus”, Emma states, amongst other things, “Every day, I am afraid to leave my room.”
However, on May 18, 2014, Emma makes is clear that she is aware Paul is in fact out of the country, and not on the Columbia campus. Emma twists that information to insinuate that Paul is a fugitive:
“Sulkowicz says the assistant district attorney has contacted her about beginning an investigation, and she has been told police are currently looking for her alleged rapist, who she says is out of the country.”
Emma Files False Charges With The NYPD With The Sole Purpose Of Making Paul’s Name Publicly Accessible; The NYPD Dismisses All Charges
Having gained some traction in denouncing Paul by name, Emma proceeded to the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) to criminally charge Paul with rape. Her goal was to publicly brand Paul as a rapist. She stated as follows:
One of my main goals was to have his name somewhere so if he committed another crime in New York City it would show up on his record so the next person he might assault would have a better time than I did in prosecuting him.
Having failed to get Paul expelled, Emma’s next goal was to have Paul withdraw from the University. Emma was impressed by the actions of Lena Sclove, a Brown University student who had publicized the name of a male student suspended by Brown University for sexual misconduct. Like Lena Sciove, she intended to publicize Paul’s name such that he would withdraw from Columbia. Emma stated as follows:
I was recently friended on Facebook by Lena Sciove, who has been such an inspiration for me, and to see the way that she was able to create a safe space for herself definitely made me realize that after I had made the police report I had that as an option to me as well.
In May 2014, Emma succeeded with her plan to publish Paul’s name. The Columbia Spectator (the University’s student newspaper) published Emma’s false rape allegation and included Paul’s name.
On August 11, 2014, the New York County District Attorney’s Office interviewed Paul for three hours. Immediately upon hearing of the police report, Paul (who was abroad at that time) had a criminal lawyer contact police and the District Attorney’s office on his behalf, expressing Paul’s intent to speak to the District Attorney to clear his name. Although Paul was never summoned, he returned to the United States and voluntarily spoke to Assistant District Attorney Kat Holderness and Assistant District Attorney Martha Bashford.
Immediately thereafter, Kat Holderness informed Paul’s criminal lawyer that no charges would be brought against Paul, as there was a lack of reasonable suspicion to proceed.
Three weeks after Paul’s criminal attorney was informed that rape charges would not be brought against him, Emma falsely announced that she personally decided not to pursue criminal charges against Paul:
I decided I didn’t want to pursue it any further because they told it me it would take nine months to a year to actually go to court, which would be after I graduated and probably wanting to erase all of my memories of Columbia from my brain anyway, so I decided not to pursue it.
Emma conveniently omitted the fact that the Sex Crimes Unit refused to bring any charges against Paul following its investigation, due to a lack of any reasonable suspicion.
At that point, Emma’s efforts to vilify Paul already had considerably damaged Paul’s reputation on campus and beyond, but had not yet gone global.
Columbia Sponsors On-Campus Gender Based Harassment and Defamation of Paul
Emma’s efforts to wreak havoc on Paul’s life were reignited by Columbia Professor Jon Kessler. Professor Kessler directed Emma to transform her personal vendetta against Paul into a Columbia-sponsored calumny. Under the guise of “performance art,” Professor Kessler and Emma jointly designed her senior thesis project (the “Mattress Project”).
The Mattress Project, named “Carry That Weight” involves Emma carrying a mattress around campus at all times during her senior year. In her words, “I will carry the mattress with me to all of my classes, every campus building, for as long as my rapist stays on the same campus with me.” She has also publicly called Paul a “serial rapist” and has vowed to carry the mattress to her and Paul’s graduation if Paul is in attendance.
Emma made clear that the Mattress Project – for which she was getting Columbia class credit specifically as an art piece – was not about art but was specifically about Paul and stalking him:
The protest in mind, I ask if she can articulate exactly what she wants to convey to Columbia “Get my rapist off campus” She says it slowly, enunciating, putting into words what her piece shows. But she laughs and atones for her gravity: “…in those few words.”
Columbia Professor Kessler not only approved Emma’s Mattress Project for course credit, but also publicly endorsed her harassment and defamation of Paul, stating: “carrying around your university bed – which was also the site of your rape – is an amazingly significant and poignant and powerful symbol … with all this evidence coming up … it’s so clear the way uni feels about this issue.”
Columbia Professor Kessler also guided Emma in developing the Mattress Project, knowing that her piece was targeted at a fellow Columbia student. Columbia Professor Kessler stated:
The impulse was there for her to carry the bed around, and she didn’t necessarily have the information as to how that would fit into the context or the history of performance art. So this summer we got involved in phone conversations about the nature of endurance art, talking about pieces by Tehehing Hsieh and Marina and Ulay and Chris Burden.
But what struck me from the get-go … is that, more than any of those people, Emma’s work comes from something which is so much more personal and so much deeper and so much less of a programmatic idea about what to do, but really about working something out cathartically and also making an enormous statement for change. And that’s what makes it so powerful. (Emphasis added.)
Emma has been engaging in the Mattress Project ever since. She is actively earning course credit from Columbia for this outrageous display of harassment and defamation of Paul and she is using this to fulfill her graduation requirement of a senior thesis, even despite clear notice by Paul and his parents to President Bollinger and other Columbia persons of authority, that Paul’s legal rights are being violated and that his well-being and future prospects are suffering immensely.
In complete disregard of Paul’s rights to be free of, among other things, gender based harassment and gender based stalking, Columbia has allowed Emma to carry the mattress into each of her classes, the library, and on Columbia campus-provided transportation.
During the course of the Mattress Project, Emma has repeatedly and publicly called Paul a “serial rapist”, gaining national and international attention in the mass media.
President Bollinger has basked in the spotlight that this display has brought. Regarding Emma, President Bollinger stated:
This is a person who is one of my students, and I care about all of my students. And when one of them feels that she has been a victim of mistreatment, I am affected by that. This is all very painfull.
President Bollinger showed no public regard for a student in Paul, who was being victimized by Emma’s campaign of false charges of criminal conduct that the University had rightly determined lacked any substance. President Bollinger thus displayed a contemptible moral cowardice in bowing down to the witch hunt against an innocent student instead of standing up for the truth and taking appropriate steps to protect Paul from gender based harassment.
The Mattress Project, as well as Emma’s public declarations in support of her project, constitute gender-based harassment and misconduct against Paul. Although cleared of all charges numerous times, Paul was publicly branded a “serial rapist” by Emma. He was targeted because he is a male, and attacked for his (consensual) sexual activity. The Mattress Project subjected Paul to verbal aggression, intimidation, and hostility based on his gender. Emma’s purpose for and effect of her project was to interfere with Paul’s academic performance (and actually have him removed from the University) and create an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, and offensive learning and living environment. Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, and offense learning and living environment.
Emma’s Gender Based Harassing and Defamatory Message Spreads Worldwide
Emma’s campaign has even ensnared United States Senator Kirsten Gilhbrand, who has also irresponsibly publicly branded Paul a serial rapist in the course of bringing Emma to President Obama’s State of the Union Address as the Senator’s guest of honor. This action was taken by Senator Gillibrand despite knowing that Paul was cleared, of any wrong-doing multiple times by Columbia and the District Attorney31 and despite a public responsibility to know the circumstances that demonstrated that Emma’s charges were false.
Senator Gillibrand stated:
I believe Emma. . . And I believe rapes that have happened to her and other students across the country have had very little justice. I think campuses are generally ill-equipped to handle the review of these cases. Those who are asked to adjudicate them are not trained: they don’t know anything about the crime, the nature of a rapist, the nature of recidivism, that they commit these crimes over and over again. In Emma’s case, three girls talked about the same incident, same perpetrator, same type of circumstances … too often our survivors are not being heard. (Emphasis added.)
Senator Gillibrand further stated:
Last night at the President’s State of the Union Address, I was honored to invite as my guest Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who has inspired us all with her performance art piece ’Carry That Weight’ in which she carries her mattress everywhere she goes to symbolize the burden she carries every single day as long as her rapist is still on campus. (Emphasis added.)
Emma’s campaign of gender based harassment and defamation of Paul received widespread news coverage both nationally and internationally.
During the time frame of early September 2014 through early November 2014, the first months of the Mattress Project, Emma’s campaign has been covered by major print media, online media and television stations in at least the following thirty-five countries.
During this time, a Google search for “Emma Sulkowicz” automatically suggested Paul’s full name as part of the auto-complete search feature. It to this day suggests “who raped Emma Sulkowicz” when googling “Emma Sulkowicz,” and reveals Paul’s name immediately.
Almost all international articles are linked to the Columbia Spectator, (which published Paul’s name as early as May 2014) and its You Tube video about “Carry That Weight” which received 1.896 Million views as of April 18, 2015.
Paul’s Safety and Well-Being Are Threatened
Emma has publicly threatened Paul, stating, “It’s not safe for him to be on this campus.”
Further threats to Paul have been posted to Emma’s public Facebook page, which has approximately 1,900 friends/followers. The first post was by a friend of Emma’s named Jay Good, appearing in September 2014, stating in relevant part, “I’m only pissed that I’m not in NY to CUT HIS THROAT MYSELF.”
Jay Good posted again on December 22, 2014, at 1:40 pm, stating in relevant part that Paul “needs to practice silence or suicide before he gets dealt with accordingly.” Emma publicly “liked” the post by commenting with a “thumbs up” icon. This post and her “like” remain publicly posted.
Defendants Endorse, Fund, and Encourage Public Campaign Against Paul
Columbia University, President Bollinger, and Professor Kessler have actively encouraged Emma’s campaign of gender-based harassment and defamation against Paul.
“Carry That Weight” was publicly promoted on a Columbia-owned Website, IRW&G Blog/Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Columbia University (“IRW&G”). IRW&G even closed its office on September 9, 2014, shortly after Emma had started the Mattress Project, to support Emma.
On September 17, 2014, the same site presents as fact that Paul sexually assaulted Emma, who is called a survivor: “In solidarity with Sulkowicz ’s aptly titled “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight” – in which Sulkowicz has promised to carry a mattress to each of her classes so long as she attends school with the same student who sexually assaulted her.” (Emphasis added.)
IRW&G announced on its official web site the support of the “Carry That Weight National Day of Action” on October 29, 2014, and motivated people to participate in the event which in great part was used to engage in gender based harassment and defamation of Paul.
Columbia University has even provided financial endorsement to it by paying a portion of the clean-up fee at a Columba campus rally at which Emma publicly declared that Paul is her rapist.
This campus rally, entitled “Carry That Weight National Day of Action” was organized by Emma and her supporters from No Red Tape and the Carry That Weight Campaign. Emma publicly stated as follows:
I’m no less afraid [now] of seeing my rapist every time I leave my dorm . … I don’t need to say his name. You know who it is.
The rally centered on a list of ten demands that were read to the public and were published in writing on one of the mattresses which was signed by activists, including Emma. The last demand explicitly alleges that Paul poses “an ongoing threat to the community”:
The investigation and adjudication process of the sexual assault report made by Emma Sulkowicz against Jean-Paul Nungesser was grossly mishandled. An alleged serial perpetrator remains on our campus and presents an ongoing threat to the community. Given these facts, we demand you re-open this case and evaluate it under the newly revised policy.41 (Emphasis added.)
In response, Columbia published the following statement, in relevant part:
Columbia embraces its responsibility to be a leader in preventing sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct anywhere it may occur, with a special duty to protect the safety and well-being of our own students Student activism plays an students around the nation.
We understand that reports about these cases in the media can be deeply distressing and our hearts go out to any students who feel they have been mistreated. Importantly, the University will not address reports about individual cases or experiences. This is so not only because of federal student privacy law but also–and most fundamentally–because of our commitment to help students feel as comfortable as possible accessing the many resources to support them on campus without concern that the University would ever comment publicly on them or their experiences. As a University we have made substantial new investments to substantially strengthen our personnel, physical resources and policies dedicated to preventing and responding to gender-based misconduct. (Emphasis added.)
This statement did not include anything to deal with the actual breaches of the University’s confidentiality policy and press publicity and the University sponsored activities that had falsely branded Paul a rapist and constituted gender based harassment.
The same day, October 29, 2014, President Bollinger co-authored an article in The New Republic that opens with a large picture of a smiling Emma carrying her mattress. The article stated in part:
There is a long history in America of movements seeking to change deeply rooted behavioral norms that show promise and then, disappointingly, produce only marginal recalibrations of the status quo No one can guarantee that the present public focus on sexual assault and other forms of gender-based misconduct will result in the degree of prevention and culture change we seek across society. What we can and must do, though, is sustain the effort to make our campuses safer over the long term and to encourage and train students to contribute thoughtfully to these changes in their own communities, both while they are in school and as they take their place in the broader world.
Again, this statement did not include anything to deal with the actual breaches of the University’s confidentiality policy and press publicity and the University sponsored activities that had falsely branded Paul a rapist and constituted gender based harassment.
In December, 2014, Columbia student activists from No Red Tape and Carry That Weight, Allie Rickard, Becca Breslaw, Michela Weih, and toe Ridolfi-Starr (the “Activists”), read a letter at President Bollmger’s office containing the following passage:
Since then, Emma Sulkowicz’s senior thesis Mattress Project: Carry That Weight has called national attention to the injustices survivors have been forced to carry alone for too long. You have not responded once to this piece, and her serial rapjst remains on campus today.44 (Emphasis added.)
Columbia initially told the Activists it would cost $1,500 to clean up the protest, but then only billed them $471 because it decided to sponsor the balance. Columbia thus spent over $1,000 (one thousand dollars) effectively sponsoring a defamation and harassment movement against Paul. President Bollinger, continuing to show moral cowardice, issued no statement to the effect that the University and the District Attorney had cleared Paul of any wrongdoing.
Paul’s Columbia Experience is Effectively Destroyed
As a result of Defendants’ actions, Paul’s entire social and academic experience at Columbia has suffered tremendously. In adherence to Columbia’s Confidentiality Policy, he did not discuss any of the investigations with any of his classmates. Yet Emma did the exact opposite, gaining support from classmates, professors, the administration, and President Bollinger. Emma has not faced any consequences for breaching the confidentiality policy.
Silenced, and also enduring suspensions and increasing ostracism from his two main social activities (ADP and the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (“COOP”)), Paul’s social life crumbled to the point of isolation. Even after being cleared of the outrageous allegation, no serious attempt was ever made by the university to rehabilitate him within those groups. Day-to-day life is unbearably stressful, as Emma and her mattress parade around campus each and every day.
Due to this ostracism, and threats to Paul’s physical safety, University resources such as dorms, libraries, dining halls, and the gym are not reasonably available for Paul’s access. Even attending classes has become problematic, as he has endured harassment and has had his photo taken against his will while in class.
The gender based harassment and defamation in the “Carry That Weight” campaign continues to this day. On the “Carry That Weight” Facebook page, activists and official hosts of events Zoe Ridolfi Star and Allie Richard stated: “This campaign is inspired by the activism and art of Emma Sulkowicz who is boldly carrying a dorm mattress around campus with her as long as her rapist continues to attend Columbia University. ” Zoe Ridolfi Star and Allie Richard were two of the activists who signed the ten demands and read the defamatory statements at President Bollinger’ s office. These activists have incited and supported gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul in the past and have publicly announced their intention to continue their activism.
While Paul supports awareness of sexual violence and activism regarding it, Paul realizes that the gender based harassment and defamation to which he has been subject will not die down Paul can no longer tolerate being victimized by Defendants.
Paul has suffered substantially in (i) his ability to work at his campus audio-visual technician job, (ii) his ability to perform academically, and (iii) his physical and emotional wellbeing.
Paul’s Career and Ability to Remain in the United States Is in Imminent Jeopardy
The Mattress Project and related events are precluding Paul from attending vital on-Columbia campus career recruiting events.
These events are being hosted at Columbia now and through the end of classes on May 8, 2015.
Graduation is scheduled for May 20, 2015. Emma has vowed to continue the Mattress Project and carry the mattress to Graduation. Such an occurrence may effectively exclude Paul (and his parents, who wish to fly in from Germany for the event) from attending graduation, especially since on April 12, 2015, during the recent “Days on Campus” at Columbia University, activists projected “Rape happens here” and “Columbia protects rapists” onto Low Library and held banners reading “Carry That Weight” and “Columbia Protects Rapists” over Low steps and ledges by Kent Hall. Columbia University did not stop them, even though it was clear to everyone on campus that the projected slogans and banners referred to Paul and was another attempt to shame him away.
Paul’s ability to obtain employment has been severely jeopardized by Defendants’ wrongdoings. Essentially, Paul has been prevented from seeking employment opportunities to which the rest of Columbia’s students have access. All the while, Paul has been cleared of all charged and complaints against him, and he has attempted to go on with his life. Emma, with Defendants’ assistance and encouragement, has worked tirelessly to make sure that cannot happen.
Paul’s staying in America is contingent upon his full time employment.
Paul’s Dream of Living in the United States
The foregoing turn of events destroyed Paul’s long-held dream of living in the United States and attending college at Columbia University. That dream had become a reality back in the spring of 2011, when he was accepted to Columbia as a John Jay Scholar.
Paul, an only child, was born and raised in Germany by parents who had been educated internationally.
Paul was born in Berlin in 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Paul and his family have always honored the United States as the country whose government and people were critical in defeating Fascism in Europe (Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s National Fascism) and re-establishing freedom, democracy, and the rule of law in western Germany following World War II.
Paul was raised in a progressive egalitarian home in which both of his parents assumed full-time responsibilities as caretakers and as breadwinners.
Paul’s mother, Karin, is a long-time journalist for the National Council of German Women’s Organizations, Deutscher Frauenrat. She is the co-founder, and a writer, on the feminist writer’s blog weibblick and has published on gender-related issues such as feminist theory, women in the media, discrimination of migrant women, equal pay, and women’s rights as human rights.
His father, Andreas, is a long-time teacher at one of Berlin’s most culturally-diverse and underprivileged neighborhoods. His job as a teacher included working with children of all ages who were victims of child molestation, and sexual harassment, as well as physical and sexual abuse.
In the mid-1990s, while Paul’s father was an exchange student at Yale University, Paul’s parents brought him to visit the United States. This experience fostered Paul’s dream to study at an Ivy League college and thereafter build a prosperous career here in the United States.
While attending school in Germany (prior to attending high school in Swaziland in southern Africa), Paul was class president and head of the student council. He initiated a daylong program entitled “Work 4 Peace” that raised funds for teenage day-laborers in Africa. He was also involved in various choral and athletic clubs. In addition, he organized a CD production of his school choir to raise funds for a classmate suffering from Leukemia.
Paul attended high school on full scholarship at the esteemed Waterford Kamhlaba United World College (“UWC”) of Southern Africa (Swaziland). Well adept at integrating into a new and multi-cultural environment, he spent extensive time in Africa working on social community projects. These projects included teaching literacy to fourth graders at a local elementary school, managing a soup kitchen, and working at a facility caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
At UWC, Paul also participated in numerous drama productions as a director and stage designer. His productions toured in Johannesburg and at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. For his contributions to the community, he was awarded a principal’s recommendation three semesters in a row. All the while, Paul performed at the highest academic level and graduated at the top of his class.
Paul viewed Columbia as the ideal place for him to advance his intellect, pursue his various passions (such as drama, architecture, photography, and outdoor adventure) and to interact socially with a diverse and highly engaging student body.
Upon his acceptance to Columbia, he was granted an F1 Visa. Pursuant to this Visa, he is entitled to remain in the United States during his four-year undergraduate program at Columbia.
Paul aspires to continue to stay and work in the United States following his graduation. Despite the gender based harassment and defamation that he has faced, Paul has built a life for himself in the United States. He has a girlfriend who he has been dating for over a year, and he is currently seeking consulting work in New York.
To remain in the country, Paul must secure employment to apply for additional Optional Practical Training, which is granted for up to twelve months following graduation.
Post Script – One Last Attempt to Defame Nungesser
After Cathy Young published an investigative article titled Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her on February 3, 2015 in the Daily Beast, the feminist blog Jezebel ran a purported rebuttal that, among unconvincing rejoinders, mentioned for the first time an alleged fourth sexual assault complaint against Nungesser – this time by a male acquaintance known as “Adam” – in an attempt to “prove” that Paul was truly a serial rapist.
Adam told Jezebel that “he was close friends with Paul during his freshman year in 2011” and that “one fall night, in the midst of an emotional conversation in Paul’s dorm room…Paul pushed him onto his bed and sexually assaulted him.” He claimed that after much self-doubt and internal struggle, he finally reported this incident, first to a student society to which both he and Nungesser belonged and then in a formal complaint to the university in the fall of 2014.
Adam, like Emma, should have been given the usual instructions from the university to “make all reasonable efforts to maintain the confidentiality/privacy of the involved parties”, but which he obviously ignored (as did Emma) by naming Paul to Jezebel.
About three weeks prior to graduation, the hearing panel found for Nungesser. As is now the norm in campus sexual misconduct proceedings, the charge was considered under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Thus, Adam could not meet the very complainant-friendly burden of showing that it was even slightly more likely than not that the offense was committed. Since there was no appeal, the case is over, and as far as Nungesser’s formal record at Columbia is concerned he is entirely in the clear.
A source close to the case made available to Cathy Young several documents related to Adam’s complaint – including the report prepared by a two-person Title IX investigative team.
The gist of the complaint was that in November 2011, Adam, who lived in the same dorm as Nungesser and was part of the same social circle, went to Nungesser’s room to tell him he was upset about being “caught in the middle” of relationship drama between Nungesser and his then-girlfriend. (This girlfriend later became one of Nungesser’s accusers, known in several media accounts under the pseudonym “Natalie”; she claimed that Nungesser had psychologically and sexually abused her throughout their relationship. The case was eventually closed after she stopped cooperating.)
According to Adam, during this conversation Nungesser asked him to sit on the bed, rubbed his shoulder and back, then “gently” pushed him down and proceeded to stroke his leg and finally massage his crotch “for approximately 2-3 minutes” while Adam froze in shock. He was finally able to muster the will to get up and leave.
Adam told investigators that he spoke to Nungesser’s girlfriend about this; however, he didn’t seem to remember when, or what her reaction was. At one point, he said that he “assumed” he had told her immediately afterward, and “it wasn’t until months later that I realized that I had not and she was unaware.” He also claimed that he avoided Nungesser after the alleged assault, and that Nungesser eventually texted him and then messaged him on Facebook; according to him, Nungesser was upset with him for telling Natalie about their sexual contact, but also suggested that they get together for coffee.
Nungesser’s story was quite different. He said that he confided in Adam about his and Natalie’s relationship troubles, that there was no sexual contact of any kind, and that later on he was dismayed to learn that Adam had recounted their conversation to Natalie.
The Facebook exchange, which Adam himself eventually found and turned over to the investigators, did not exactly help his story. Far from showing avoidance of Nungesser, it showed Adam seeking him out, complaining that “our friendship has been negatively affected” by Nungesser’s relationship problems and that “we’re less close/you’re preferring it that way”. It also showed Nungesser saying, “It was obviously pretty hard for me when I found out that you shared my entire conversation that I had with you with [Natalie], because I had assumed that it was confidential.”
The investigators’ report noted numerous contradictions in Adam’s account, as well as its drastic discrepancy with the Facebook record. Nungesser’s account, on the other hand, was not only consistent but matched by corroborative evidence. Adam’s credibility was further sunk by his rather fanciful complaints of “retaliation” by Nungesser in a class they shared. These “deliberately aggressive acts” consisted of sitting too close to Adam or to his friends, which left Adam “distraught and traumatized,” and complimenting some points Adam had made in a class discussion (which “felt like he was claiming a collective sense of power”). I am happy to report that, even on the trauma-happy modern campus, such claims of harassment are still recognized as, in the words of the report, “hyperbolic and illogical”.
In the end, the investigators concluded that Adam was “unreliable” and that his story simply did not add up, and recommended that Nungesser be found “not responsible.” But there is another fascinating wrinkle to the story.
Adam did have a corroborating witness of sorts: a woman who had held a governing position in a fraternity to which both he and Nungesser had belonged – Alpha Delta Phi, a coed Greek organization with an intellectual and literary bent. This woman confirmed that during the 2012/2013 academic year, she heard a rumor that Nungesser had “engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior” toward Adam; she said she had questioned Adam about it and written a report based on his verbal statement. The report, an undated Word document she had saved on her computer, added more inconsistencies to Adam’s account; among other things, it placed the alleged misconduct in February 2012 rather than November 2011.
The record leaves virtually no doubt that this witness is the same ADP officer – let’s call her “Leila” – who played a fairly important supporting role in the case against Nungesser in the spring and fall of 2013. As reported in The Daily Beast, after learning about the complaint brought by Sulkowicz in late April of that year, Leila sent out an email on the ADP listserv announcing that a male society member and house resident stood accused of raping a female member. In rather florid language, the email declared that the accused had “flagrantly violated his vows, disregarded his obligations as a Member, and…transgressed the rules of life”, and that if he did not resign from ADP voluntarily the executive board would seek his immediate expulsion.
The next day, after Nungesser informed Leila that the university had assured him he could stay at the house while the case was pending, she sent a sheepish follow-up email noting that “all members deserve due process, as well as an opportunity to tell their side”. Shortly after that, however, Nungesser found himself facing another accusation – this time from an ADP resident, identified as “Josie” in several media reports, who claimed he had grabbed her and tried to kiss her at a party over a year earlier. As a result, he was ordered to move out of ADP.
According to both Nungesser and a student advocate who attended the hearing on Josie’s complaint, Leila testified at that hearing and acknowledged that she encouraged Josie to come forward. The record in Adam’s case provides additional confirmation that she was actively collecting allegations against Nungesser. Interestingly, while the investigators’ report stated that Adam didn’t have an apparent motive to falsely accuse Nungesser, it took note of the fact that “at the time of the Complainant’s initial disclosure, at least several of his close friends and co-fraternity members were engaged in a process intended to evict the Respondent from the fraternity house”. For a university document, this comes startlingly close to an admission that Nungesser may have been the target of a group vendetta.
About the same time that the Columbia Title IX investigative team was clearing Paul Nungesser yet again, Emma Sulkowicz addressed a group of Brown University students marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The speech, live-tweeted by students in attendance, included such irrationalities as:
“If we use proof in rape cases, we fall into the patterns of rape deniers.”
“In saying I expose the truth, the viewer superimposes their truth upon mine, and once again silences me.”
“Well-meaning people on the street will touch me reverently… They do not believe they are violating me with their hands.”
“When people engage in believing in me, they objectify me.”
In other words, Sulkowicz perfectly exemplifies the “rape culture” propagandist, for whom reason and common sense are the enemies of Third-Wave Feminist “truth”, and for whom victimhood is such a glorified status that even supporters become victimizers in their jaundiced eyes.
Sequel – Columbia Tacitly Allows Emma’s Mattress at Graduation
Prior to the May 19 Class Day, which is the Columbia College graduation ceremony, school administrators sent the following email to all graduating seniors:
“Graduates should not bring into the ceremonial area large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces shared by thousands of people.”
According to news accounts, a school representative twice asked Emma Sulkowicz to leave her mattress in another room and not take it up on stage, but she ignored the request and no further attempts to stop her from imposing her “performance art thesis” / protest were undertaken.
Just prior to the “Carry That Weight” mattress being brought on stage, to the applause of many students, Paul Nungesser had walked across it to receive his diploma and shake the hand of Columbia president Lee Bollinger (in spite of his pending lawsuit against the president and others), and then briskly walked off campus.
When Emma Sulkowicz approached Bollinger with her mattress between them, the president turned and leaned down as if to pick up something. A university spokesperson later denied that Bollinger had snubbed Sulkowicz, and claimed that Sulkowicz had simply walked past with her mattress.
In addition to the obvious support for Sulkowicz from her fellow graduates, the keynote speaker, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, alluded approvingly to Ms. Sulkowicz’s protest. Applauding student activism at Columbia, he told the students: “You felt outside of society, sufficiently determined to challenge hierarchy that you took risks. You held contrary opinions, held die-ins and sit-ins and carried mattresses. Most importantly, you have learned to empathize, to look out for others and to listen.”
However, what most Columbia students failed to learn is how to listen to both sides of a controversy and how to look out for victims of sexual harassment when they are of the male biological type.
One anonymous person who shouldered the task of articulating “the other side of the story” in a last-minute public counter-protest “art project”, put up posters around the Columbia campus depicting Emma Sulkowicz as a “Pretty Little Liar”. Those students who could not tolerate freedom of artistic expression which contradicts their own bias, however, began to tear the posters down.
After the ceremony, Columbia issued a statement saying, “We are not going to comment on individual students; it is a day for all members of the Class of 2015.” A spokesperson said, “We were not going to physically block entry to graduates who are ultimately responsible for their own choices.”
Nungesser’s parents, Karin Nungesser and Andreas Probosch, found this response inadequate. “Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family,” they said. “We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to.”
Here’s their take on Tuesday’s mattress protest:
At graduation, Columbia University again broke its own rules and afforded Emma Sulkowicz a special exception….
We have come to realize that at Columbia, not all are equal before its policy. What is the point of internal investigations if their outcome is not accepted? Instead those with better connections and more influence promoted a false narrative. While they failed at their goal of bullying our son into leaving this university, they have turned his life into a nightmare.
Nungesser and Probosch also lashed out at Columbia for awarding Sulkowicz a degree for her honors thesis, Carry That Weight, which they deem a public shaming stunt:
Responsible for this nightmare is not just the woman, who received an academic degree for the attempt to shame Paul away from campus, but even more at fault is the University that conferred this degree. A university that bows to a public witch-hunt no longer deserves to be called a place of enlightenment, of intellectual and academic freedom. By failing to intervene in this injustice, Columbia ceases to be a place where critical thinking, courage and democratic practice are taught, learned and lived.
Even though Nungesser’s parents are “very proud” of their son, “our memory of it [graduation] will always be tainted by Columbia’s wrongdoing”.
Rape Part Deux
As if in a fit of salacious confessional exhibitionism, Emma “The Mattress” Sulkowicz unveiled Rape Part Deux on June 3, 2015: a website and pornographic video as an example of art imitating life.
According to the site ArtNet News, Sulkowicz shot the short porno over winter break with director Ted Lawson, a New York City-based artist, famous for some other rather grotesque fabrications.
In her interview with the site, Sulkowicz said the media attention surrounding her for the past year has been “terrifying”, despite the fact that her father hired a “high-profiled attorney who knows how to work the press” when she first went public with her accusations.
Sulkowicz also claimed the piece was separate from the “Carry That Weight” Mattress Performance – her senior thesis project – and hoped that people should view it as such.
“Yeah, I mean, when people call me ‘Mattress Girl’ I find that really infuriating,” she said in a rather teeny-bopper fashion. “It’s like, okay great, so you think that I’ll never progress beyond that point. That I’ll be a ‘Mattress Girl’ rather than a living, breathing person who has the ability to change.”
Given the content of her artless website, there’s no indication that she’s changed, except perhaps for the worse.
The video’s director, Ted Lawson, told ArtNet News that Sulkowicz got his contact information from performance artist Marina Abramović. While collaborating on a separate project, Lawson said Sulkowicz suggested the video and asked him to direct it.
“It was a super risky piece and I thought very courageous, so of course I agreed,” Lawson told ArtNet News. “I think it came out quite good.”
The 8-minute plot takes place in a dorm room, with a faceless man engaging Emma in kissing, fondling, oral and then vaginal and/or anal sex. What clearly begins with the enthusiastic participation of both, gradually escalates into a mildly violent and forceful sexual encounter, with the man face-slapping Emma, apparently choking her, ripping off his condom and then getting very aggressive sexually before seemingly quitting mid-stroke to get up and leave the room, with Emma left alone and naked in every sense on her bed.
Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol
Titled Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol (this is not a rape), the text begins with a “Trigger Warning” and the caveat that “Everything that takes place in the following video is consensual but may resemble rape. It is not a reenactment but may seem like one.”
It goes on to claim, with the same kind of abject incredulity that marked all of her previous public confessions, that “Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol is not about one night in August, 2012. It’s about your decisions, starting now. It’s only a reenactment if you disregard my words. It’s about you, not him.”
Yet the original split-frame, four-camera angle, live-action porn video included a doctored date stamp of 8/27/2012, the very night that Emma and Paul had what both agree began as consensual sex. After the alleged distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack the first weekend the website was live, the video was edited to blur out the date-stamp, perhaps to avoid making more of a liar of herself than is already evident, or perhaps to deter a possible but unlikely defamation lawsuit from Paul Nungasser, who is already suing Columbia University.
The site then sternly warns “Do not watch this video if your motives would upset me, my desires are unclear to you, or my nuances are indecipherable” – as if her desires and “nuances” are anything but indecipherable.
She then explains that “If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape…” – putting a lie to the disclaimer that this is not a rape, and not a re-enactment of HER rape, and setting up (entrapping) viewers to engage in an act of non-consensual participation (the way she very likely set up her dear friend Paul by inviting him to engage in anal sex).
Sulkowicz reveals the motive for her public pornographic re-enactment: “You might be wondering why I’ve made myself this vulnerable. Look – I want to change the world, and that begins with you, seeing yourself.”
But “vulnerable” is hardly the word for a willful act of public sexual exhibitionism, and her world wide web exposure seems far more about creating a further opportunity for the world to see HER, to extend her ill-earned ’15 minutes of fame’, now that she has become addicted to celebrity status and apparently cannot get enough of that fix.
Emma’s narcissistic attempt at world-changing is encapsulated in the questions for contemplation that she offers, both to frame the experience and to exert control over the thoughts we are allowed to entertain.
Are you searching for proof? Proof of what?
Are you searching for ways to either hurt or help me?
What are you looking for?
Do you desire pleasure?
Do you desire revulsion? Is this to counteract your unconscious enjoyment?
What do you want from this experience?
How well do you think you know me? Have we ever met?
Do you think I’m the perfect victim or the world’s worst victim?
Do you refuse to see me as either a human being or a victim? If so, why? Is it to deny me agency and thus further victimize me? If so, what do you think of the fact that you owe your ability to do so to me, since I’m the one who took a risk and made myself vulnerable in the first place?
Do you hate me? If so, how does it feel to hate me?
In a rather pathetic and somewhat adolescent attempt to control the narrative and to insert herself into the minds of her viewers, Sulkowicz insists that she be granted the right to remain a perpetual victim, confusing that with the exercise of authentic personal agency (the two are, actually, incompatible), and that we recognize that any experience we might have from viewing her porn piece we own to her gracious and altruistic exposure – all meant to “change the world” (though nothing she’s done in regard to this alleged incident has unarguably changed anything for the better, other than her public fame or infamy).
I will not give Sulkowicz the satisfaction of linking to her porn site, but it’s out there for all the world to take notice – which is quite clearly what she so desperately desires.
One commenter to her website, who goes by JC, thought:
“It is a brilliant representation of the dichotomy that exists between consensual BDSM and rape… the problem with today’s pervasive rape culture is that that at any given moment in time, aggressive, and even violent sexual activity can occur between two consenting adults in a trusting environment who derive pleasure from such role play while the same exact scenario that occurs without such trust and consent is illegal, immoral, and can cause irreparable psychological damage. Similarly, a non-violent scenario between two individuals where there is coercion, persuasion, or incapacitation of one or both parties due to alcohol or other drugs can be more akin to rape then the consensual “disturbing” activity revealed in this performance art.”
But this “performance art” porn site demonstrates the exact opposite: that the line between consensual sex and non-consensual sex is almost entirely subjective, fluid, often changeable months after the fact – and that the post-coital moving of the line can be used politically or maliciously (or for both purposes).
A female lifestyle commentator, on a mainstream website I won’t dignify with a name, wrote:
“…because Sulkowicz makes it very clear that the activities taking place in her video are consensual, it is the viewer of the video who is violating her, even though the man in the video is the one who hits her. The difference is that he had her consent to do so, while the visitors to the “Ceci N’est Pas un Viol” site did not have her permission to watch the video…”
Of course, to claim that Emma’s creation and promotion of the website does not amount to at least tacit if not quite willful consent for anyone to view her live sex act is to invert reality in the same way that Sulkowicz has done in regard to her “rape” and her accusing Nungesser of engaging in a public “smear campaign” for merely asserting his innocence and releasing their texting exchanges.
Ultimately, all that Emma Sulkowicz accomplishes by her pornographic production is to prove how facilely all-too-many women will engage in sexual entrapment, emotional manipulation and psychological abuse for all the reasons that psychologists, sociologists and criminologists have identified as motives for false rape allegations: alibi, revenge, and attention-seeking.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes and a link to this page.
Misandric Feminism vs. Progressive Gender Equality (excerpt of above)
Male Victims of Sexual Violence (also an excerpt of the first essay)
Yellow Journalism and the Meme of “Rape Culture” – Rolling Stone and U-VA Gang Rape
Dear President Sullivan – letter from 17 attorneys involved with campus sexual assault claims throughout America, detailing specific reasons why they “are concerned that the University’s Proposed Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is both vastly over inclusive in attempting to define prohibited conduct and ill equipped to guarantee a procedure for resolving allegations that is fair and impartial”.
It’s Time for a U-VA Apology – Op-Ed from a 25-year U-VA professor and his U-VA junior son
Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas – the Sabrina Rubin Erdely Story
New Puritanism – New Paternalism – The “Rape Culture” Narrative Demeans Women, Demonizes Men, and Turns Universities into Witch Hunt Tribunals
Dear Senators – letter from 20 attorneys critical of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 2692)
Sexual Assault and Justice: Can we reconcile the belated attention to rape on campus with due process? by Nancy Gertner, feminist lawyer, retired federal judge and Harvard Law professor
The Pendulum Reverses – Again – The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses & Men Strike Back against Title IX Tribunals
HELP for DOE Regulatory Excess – A Senate Task Force Report Recommends Scaling Back the Mountain of Regulations Strangling Higher Education Institutions
Men are Twice-Raped – Domestically and Globally, Men and Boys are Victims of Sexual Violence at rates Equal to those of Women, and are Assumed to be Villains whenever a Woman Accuses
All Sex is Rape – All Men are Rapists : Patriarchy = Rape Culture
A Case Study in “Politically-Correct” Reactionary Response – The Duke Lacrosse Team Stripper Rape Hoax
When the Megaphone becomes the Gavel – Two legal experts on sex discrimination law and procedure argue that the current Title IX mandates for America’s colleges and universities are legally unsupportable and both practically and ethically indefensible.
Two Over-Privileged Millennials Engage in Sex and Get F-cked – The Stanford “Model” Student and her Silicon Valley Mentor
The Rape Culture Meme – It’s to authentic human culture what genetically modified corn is to maize.