Student an der Columbia: "Ich habe sie nicht vergewaltigt"
The Columbia University senior vividly remembers the day, in April 2012, when he received a phone call while working in the school’s digital architecture lab. It was the campus Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct, asking him to come in to talk. At the time, he says, he was not particularly alarmed: "I thought initially that maybe they called me in as a witness."
Instead, 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.
(...) Now, Nungesser has agreed to speak to The Daily Beast and tell his version of the events. This story, partly backed by materials made public here for the first time and corroborated by a former Columbia graduate student who played a secondary role in the disciplinary process, is dramatically at odds with the prevailing media narrative. On one point, however, Nungesser and his supporters agree with the pro-Sulkowicz camp: A grave injustice has been done.
Hier geht es weiter. Es ist bemerkenswert, welche Konsequenzen schon die bloße Anschuldigung eines Studenten für ihn haben kann. Der Artikel berichtet, wie die Situation für Nungesser zunehmend eskaliert:
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. "That is not art. If she was doing this for artistic self-expression, or exploration of her identity—all these are valid motives. Scaring another student into leaving university is not a valid motive."
Nungesser also says he has been the target of social-media threats. A Tumblr post that began to circulate last September said, "The name of Emma Sulkowicz’s rapist is Jean-Paul Nungesser. Don’t let him have any feeling of anonymity or security. Rapists don’t get the luxury of feeling comfortable." Around the same time, Nungesser says that he and his parents spotted and eventually removed a Facebook post that had a far more ominous tone, stating, "I’m only pissed that I’m not in NY to CUT HIS THROAT MYSELF!"
Immerhin stehen Nungessers Freundin und seine Eltern zu ihm:
"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."
Both Probosch and Nungesser express bafflement at the practice of letting colleges handle allegations of violent rape. But if such a process must exist, says Probosch, "doesn’t [it] only make sense if people accept its outcome?" In this case, he says, "Paul went through this whole process with endless hours of hearings and interviews and cooperated in every way possible. And yet if you Google him, in half of the articles you´ll find, he is still labeled a serial rapist."
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 to be 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."
Karin Nungesser fully understands the desire to support someone who comes forward with an accusation of rape: "This is a good cause—but even in a good cause, you have to try to check the facts." What she views as the failure to check the facts in this case appalls her not only as a feminist but as a journalist. "We can’t understand to this day why the major media never asked Paul about his side," she says. "Going back to our own history, the media in western Germany were built upon the model of The New York Times. It was the idea of good journalism, of good fact-checking, of not doing propaganda."
Ach ja, die gute alte Zeit ...