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After the speakers had all passed along their platitudes and homilies, administrators began calling students to the stage.Fortunately for Nungesser, when the announcer read his name, no one booed or protested. The announcer stumbled over her name, perhaps distracted by the giant mattress wrapped in a waterproof cover being lugged to the dais by Sulkowicz and four friends. “I would have liked to go to every single parent in that audience and say, ‘I am the mother of Paul, and I am very proud of my son, and I hope you discuss with your sons and daughters what they did to him.’”Sulkowicz’s final act of rebellion that day—and the fact that Columbia did not stop it—is now part of a lawsuit Nungesser has filed against his alma mater.But increasingly, lawyers are throwing gender discrimination into the mix.Accused men are now echoing the complaints of their (most often) female accusers: that schools are violating Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs.“I think we’ve seen just a cataclysmic change around the country in terms of attention to the issue, responsiveness to it, and training, preparation for our students so that we can see safer campuses,” she says.The OCR is investigating 152 colleges for their handling of sexual violence claims, and, she adds, complaints about sexual violence at colleges have increased more than 400 percent.Sulkowicz defied a school ban on “large objects” to haul her mattress to the podium when she claimed her diploma.Paul Nungesser and his parents were at that ceremony.
He and his parents had agonized over whether to attend the ceremony because his classmate Emma Sulkowicz had accused him of raping her, and for more than eight months she had carried an extra-long twin-size mattress around campus, vowing to do so until he was expelled, or fled.
Swing the pendulum back.” Sokolow says schools didn’t heed the warning and resented the suggestion. I mean, this was such an unpopular thing for us to say.
And it does not feel good in any way, shape or form to have been absolutely right.”Nungesser leads the swelling ranks of male students suing colleges, seeking damages and asking judges to force schools to clear their records.
Victims’ advocates say the OCR letter helped destigmatize sexual assault and encourages survivors to report.
But a less-told consequence is the tendency by schools to trample due process rights for the accused, according to some higher education and legal experts.