Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University graduate immortalized as “Mattress Girl” for carrying a mattress as her senior thesis, has been accused of launching an organized “anti-male” campaign with Columbia’s support by the attorneys representing Paul Nungesser, the man she accused of raping her.
Sulkowicz became a national celebrity in 2014 when she began a senior art project titled “Carry That Weight,” in which she carried a dorm room mattress with her everywhere to protest the fact Nungesser was still on campus. Sulkowicz claims Nungesser raped her in August 2012, but her complaint to the school resulted in Nungesser being found “not responsible,” and police have declined to pursue any charges against him.
Last April, Nungesser sued Columbia, arguing the school gave Sulkowicz encouragement and monetary support to engage in a long-term campaign to harass and vilify him, despite having ample evidence he was innocent. That lawsuit is ongoing, and Wednesday a letter was filed with the court in which both sides summarized the arguments they planned to raise in advance of a July 1 pre-trial hearing. (RELATED: The Text Of The Mattress Girl Lawsuit Will Shock You)
In the letter, Nungesser’s attorneys rattle off additional grievances that, to them, show Columbia’s persistent failure to rein in Sulkowicz. The letter points out that even though Columbia knew Nungesser faced no criminal charges and had been found “not responsible” before a school judicial body, the school had in fact honored her by awarding her degree with a magna cum laude distinction, an honor based not only on GPA but also general academic accomplishments.
“Emma’s time and indeed her academic work at Columbia has largely been defined by her part in the gender based anti-male discriminatory harassment campaign against Plaintiff Nungesser[;] these honors constitute yet another instant of Defendant Columbia directly rewarding, encouraging and celebrating Emma Sulkowicz’s role in the gender based discriminatory harassment,” the letter says.
The university also furthered Nungesser’s humiliation by allowed Sulkowicz to carry her mattress at graduation, which the letter calls a flagrant violation of the rules.
“At the graduation ceremony, Emma Sulkowicz was given a special university privilege contrary to the rules by Defendant Columbia to carry the mattress to her and Plaintiff Nungesser’s graduation in another instance of Defendant Columbia perpetrated gender based discriminatory harassment of Plaintiff Nungesser,” the letter says. Columbia policy explicitly prohibits any large objects from being brought on-stage at graduation, but Sulkowicz defied this order and university officials did not stop her. (RELATED: Mattress Girl Carries Her Mattress To Graduation)
The filing even makes reference to Sulkowicz’s infamous “Cedi n’est pas un viol,” a pornographic video she posted at the start of June that recreates the events of her alleged rape. While the video was released after Sulkowicz left Columbia, Nungesser’s attorney say the video was enabled by the “public persona” Sulkowicz was able to build with the university’s help. (RELATED: Columbia’s Mattress Girl Has Made An ‘Artistic’ Sex Tape)
These new accusations add on to those included in the original April lawsuit, which pointed out that Sulkowicz repeatedly violated confidentiality agreements to accuse Nungesser yet faced absolutely no sanctions from the university.
Columbia’s attorneys do not rebut any of the claims made by Nungesser, and the school even acknowledges that Sulkowicz’s campus activism made her a major figure in the sexual assault debate. However, the school asserts that Sulkowicz was an independent third-party actor, and the school cannot be held “responsible or liable for her conduct.”
The letter ends by noting that both parties are open to pursuing a pre-trial settlement, which could conceivably net Nungesser thousands or even millions of dollars.
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