By BENJAMIN WEISER
A Columbia University student who was accused of rape by a fellow student, who then targeted him in a very public campus action, filed a federal discrimination lawsuit on Thursday against the school; its president, Lee C. Bollinger; and one of its professors.
The plaintiff, Paul Nungesser, who was cleared of responsibility in the rape claim by the university, alleges in the lawsuit that he had been the victim of a harassment campaign by the other student, Emma Sulkowicz.
“By refusing to protect Paul Nungesser,” the lawsuit says, “Columbia University first became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it.”
Ms. Sulkowicz’s case has drawn national attention, in part because she has carried a mattress around Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, an action that she has called artistic expression and is her senior thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).”
The lawsuit alleges that Jon Kessler, the professor who is named as a defendant, not only approved the project but also “publicly endorsed her harassment and defamation” of Mr. Nungesser.
“She is actively earning course credit from Columbia for this outrageous display of harassment and defamation,” the lawsuit says, with the school aware that “Paul’s legal rights are being violated and that his well-being and future prospects are suffering immensely.”
Ms. Sulkowicz is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The suit seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial for what it calls the harm caused to Mr. Nungesser’s reputation, and his loss of educational opportunities and future career prospects.
“I think it’s ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece,” Ms. Sulkowicz said in an email, describing her action as “an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia.”
Ms. Sulkowicz has claimed that in August 2012, Mr. Nungesser hit her, pinned her down and raped her in a dormitory. Mr. Nungesser, in December, characterized Ms. Sulkowicz’s mattress project as an act of bullying intended to hound him out of Columbia. He has said they had consensual sex.
His lawsuit contends that Ms. Sulkowicz filed a false complaint with the university and undertook her campaign against him.
Mr. Nungesser’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, said on Thursday, “He’s become the poster boy for something he didn’t do.”
A Columbia spokesman, Robert Hornsby, citing the pending litigation, said neither the school nor Mr. Bollinger had a comment on the lawsuit. Professor Kessler also declined to comment.