The sexual assault allegations against Columbia University student Paul Nungesser have gained national attention after his accuser began carrying a mattress around campus as a symbolic protest after the university found Nungesser “not responsible.” He has now spoken out for the first time, sharing how these accusations have followed him long after the campus hearing, as reported by Ariel Kaminer in The New York Times.
Almost two years ago, Nungesser faced a campus hearing for sexual assault regarding an incident he calls consensual. Columbia found him not responsible. His accuser later decided not to pursue criminal charges. Two other female students subsequently filed complaints against Nungesser alleging a groping incident and “intimate partner violence.” Each of these complaints was later dismissed.
Despite the not responsible finding, the accusations have continued to follow Nungesser. The school newspaper reported the accuser’s story and published his name. The accusations have been tagged on bathroom walls, written in flyers handed out on campus, and posted in online articles. Students once carried a mattress into Nungesser’s class, and one student took a picture of Nungesser’s reaction.
Nungesser calls it bullying. He holds the university responsible for letting these activities continue even though it found him not responsible. He also criticizes the university for allowing his accuser to make the “Mattress Performance” her senior thesis, implying that the university is endorsing her actions.
Having undergone a campus hearing, Nungesser says these hearings are biased against the accused. He cites the lower burden of proof than criminal trials, and he claims that he was not allowed to present relevant evidence of communications between himself and his accuser.
The Department of Education is currently investigating Columbia, among other universities, for its handling of sexual assault complaints. Columbia’s adjudicative procedures have changed since Nungesser’s hearing; students may now have an attorney present. Columbia is one of the few universities to offer an attorney if students are unable to afford one.