Manhattan District Judge Woods dismisses Nungesser’s case against Columbia University, saying Nungesser failed to show that Columbia discriminated against him based on his gender by allowing and condoning conduct during the 2014-2015 academic year by Sulkowicz. Woods says he did not suggest that Nungesser’s final year at Columbia was “pleasant or easy, but that Nungesser’s position would stretch Title IX too far, and could permit any students accused of sexual assault to sue their schools, so long as the schools knew of the allegations and failed to silence the accusers.
Neither the text nor the purpose of Title IX supports this conclusion.
He says Nungesser could replead his Title IX claim and some other claims, including under a New York state human rights law.
[This decision] brings us closer to the point that this litigation, addressing issues understandably difficult for many, can be concluded.
While we’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling today, we believe that this is a very strong case and we will continue in our pursuit of justice for Mr. Nungesser.
In a 46-page opinion, Judge Woods dismisses Nungesser’s second lawsuit alleging that the university violated his Title IX rights and two state laws in its handling of Sulkowicz’s mattress-toting campaign to have him expelled from campus. The case is dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning Nungesser is prohibited from filing a third suit on the same claims. Nungesser’s suit said Sulkowicz “enabled reporters to stalk [him], defamed him as a ‘serial rapist,’ and her campaign resulted in public intimidation, isolation on campus and receipt of threats against him.” He described himself “male victim of gender-based harassment” at a federally funded university that did nothing to intervene, a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Woods argued that there was no proof Sulkowicz’s actions were “motivated by gender” or that she deployed the term “serial rapist” as a gendered slur. As to his claim that harassment deprived him of educational opportunities at Columbia, Woods recognized that Nungesser’s “senior year at Columbia was neither pleasant nor easy,” but said the plaintiff’s case failed to meet the high bar set by Title IX for evidence. Nungesser’s lawyer:
We have carefully reviewed Judge Woods’ decision, and believe it to be erroneous in a number of critical areas. From the outset of this case, Judge Woods has been dead set against Paul Nungesser, which is further evidenced by his flawed reasoning in finding that the 101 page, extraordinarily detailed, Second Amended Complaint contains no viable causes of action. We are confident that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will reinstate the case.