A German Exchange Student in the Middle of a Campus Rape Shitstorm

Meet Paul Nungesser, a German exchange student at Columbia University in New York:

Speaking carefully, with a slightly formal bearing and an accent so faint that it can be hard to place, Mr. Nungesser, who is from Germany, says he believes sexual assault is an important cause for concern. “My mother raised me as a feminist,” he says, well aware of how those words will strike some people, “and I’m someone who would like to think of myself as being supportive of equal rights for women.”

Yet according to campus activists, Nungesser is a 'rapist' and 'sexual predator', and his actions have sparked a 'national movement' to address the supposed (my skepticism expressed here) campus-rape crisis in America. 

This year, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz became an emblem for how colleges mistreat victims of sexual assault on campus. After Sulkowicz reported an alleged rape to the Columbia administration and the college found the accused not responsible, she began hauling her 50-pound dorm mattress across campus as a powerful symbol of an adjudication system she claims is confounding, ineffectual, and unfair. The act has grown into Sulkowicz’s undergraduate art thesis project and inspired a national movement, Carry That Weight, that advocates on behalf of campus sexual assault survivors. In the shadow of her campaign stands Paul Nungesser, the student Sulkowicz says raped her. Today, the New York Times published the first interview with Nungesser himself. It’s the most intimate, high-profile portrait so far of a college student who was accused of rape—one who says that the system has failed him, too.

In his time at Columbia, three female students have accused Nungesser of sexual misconduct. He's denied each accusation, and has not been formally disciplined by the university. When one student accused Nungesser of groping her at a party, the university initially decided against him, but he successfully appealed the ruling. After another student accused him of intimate partner violence, the university dropped the case when the alleged victim stopped cooperating with the investigation. And when Sulkowicz accused Nungesser of raping her, Columbia declined to find him responsible, citing lack of evidence.

In lieu of any formal finding, Nungesser had paid a social cost. “He has gotten used to former friends crossing the street to avoid him,” Ariel Kaminer reports in the Times. “He has even gotten used to being denounced as a rapist on fliers and in a rally in the university’s quadrangle. … His name has been plastered on campus bathrooms and published in easily searchable articles. His face is visible online, too, in photos that detractors have posted as warnings to strangers.” Because Columbia failed to discipline Nungesser, Columbia bloggers, activists, and supporters have stepped in to exact their own punishment, and national media has fanned the flames.

Paul Nungesser, I have some advice for you. Your ordeal may seem pretty horrifying now, but when you return to Germany, hire a ghostwriter and publish an account of your situation (suggested maximum-sales title: 'How I Became the Victim of a Puritanical American PC Witch-Hunt'). It will sell millions, and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

3 thoughts on “A German Exchange Student in the Middle of a Campus Rape Shitstorm

  1. For some reason, I feel reminded of the events around Jörg Kachelmann a few years ago, perhaps because it’s the most prominent case of rape accusition eventually struck down for lack of certain prove in the younger past here.
    Back then the Springer press decided to side with the prosecution. I wonder, if such a “blurring of the lines” through an alliance of right wing media and feminism may happen in the US too…
    Anyhow, my dislike for vigilantism of any kind is confirmed once more. It’s a shame, courts (or in this case their equivalent, I suppose) are only respected as long as oneself is favoured by the decissions. For now, the best thing to say is, neither the accused nor the accusers (who certainly got their share of threats as well from enraged “honest citizens”) were physically harmed. Propably even tougher with the US’ lack of anonymity in criminal process.
    The mob with its torches and pitchforks is lined up to move on to the next target. Three weeks per outrage. I suppose, this story is done. If your cynical suggestion at the end was followed, the resulting book definitly would sell wildly. Mainly to those, who are too blind to realize, they’re the same.

    Btw., on a slightly different note: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3592#comic


  2. @jab, I’m giving him solid-gold, straight-down-the-middle advice. The book would sell like hotcakes, as Americans say. And the anti-American prejudices it would stoke are some of the more accurate ones — the US really does have a puritanical campus culture that goes beyond what you see in Germany.

    However, I reserve the right to say my suggestion is also a bit of a lark. On this blog, You pays your money and you takes your chances! (http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/28/magazine/on-language-you-pays-yer-money.html)


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