Last spring, Paul Nungesser—best known as the alleged rapist of Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia alum who, for her senior thesis project, symbolically bore the weight of her assault by carrying her mattress across campus—filed a discrimination lawsuit against Columbia University. On March 11, that lawsuit was dismissed by a Manhattan judge.
According to Gothamist, Judge Gregory Woods “[states] that [Nungesser’s] claims of Title IX and emotional distress have no real basis” and that, in fact, Nungesser does not demonstrate a firm grasp of what “constitutes a Title IX claim.” Gothamist:
“Nungesser alleged that Columbia had violated his Title IX rights, which state that no one in any educational program or federally funded activity should ‘be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination’ on the basis of sex. Title IX claims are more typically seen in cases brought forward by survivors of sexual assault, not alleged perpetrators.”
For Nungesser’s case to hold water, he would need to provide substantial evidence that the aftermath of these rape accusations amounted to sex-based discrimination as it is defined by Title IX. But as Judge Woods argued in a 26-page dismissal, this wasn’t the case. He writes:
“Nungesser’s argument rests on a logical fallacy. He assumes that because the allegations against him concerned a sexual act that everything that follows from it is ‘sex-based’ within the meaning of Title IX. He is wrong. Taken to its logical extreme , Nungesser’s position would lead to the conclusion that those who commit, or are accused of committing, sexual assault are a protected class under Title IX.”
In fact, even if Nungesser could produce plausible evidence of gender-based discrimination, it would likely not be protected under Title IX, which requires the harassment to be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive [him] of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.” And, though Nungesser asserts that Sulkowicz’s mattress barred him “from attending on-campus career events,” Woods contends that this argument, too, is untrue.
Nonetheless, Nungesser’s lawyer has implied that they will file an amended complaint “in our pursuit of justice.”
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