I was considering framing this as an either/or ethics quiz, with Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) inviting Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia student who continues to harass the student she accused of rape despite her allegations being judged, by the school and police, as unprovable to the State of the Union, being compared to Speaker John Boehner’s in-your-face invitation of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress about Iran. I don’t like either of the moves: both are unethical in different ways. I can at least devise an argument for Boehner, however. I don’t see how anyone can excuse Gillibrand, who is essentially accusing a young man of rape when she has no direct knowledge of what happened.
Columbia student Paul Nungesser was found “not responsible” for sexually assaulting Sulkowicz, Since that official determination, Sulkowicz has been carrying a mattress around the university as “an art project” to protest Nungesser’s success at defending himself. When he learned that the Senator had injected herself into the controversy, he told reporters,
“I am shocked to learn that Senator Gillibrand is actively supporting Ms. Sulkowicz’s defamation campaign against me by providing her with a public forum in which to broadcast her grave allegation. By doing so, Senator Gillibrand is participating in a harassment campaign against someone who, for good reason, has been found innocent by all investigating bodies.”
Yup, I’d say that’s a fair interpretation. He continued,
“Sulkowicz’s accusation is untrue and unfounded: I have never sexually assaulted anyone. This is why Columbia University after seven months of detailed investigation in November 2013 found me to be not responsible…I voluntarily let myself be interviewed by DA chief of Sex Crimes at SVU in New York City, in August 2014. Shortly after this interview, the DA’s office informed me that they decided not to pursue the case further.”
Sulkowicz decided not to pursue the criminal case any further. She just took the alternative action of setting out to hound, harass, accuse, stigmatize and embarrass Nungesser as “art.”
I have no idea whether Nungesser is innocent, and neither do you—and neither does Gillibrand. By honoring his accuser with a high profile invitation to a prestigious and nationally televised political event, however, she is implicitly taking Sulkowicz’s side and also implicitly calling Nungessor a liar and a rapist. Why? Because Sulkowicz is a woman, that’s why, so she must be telling the truth; Nungessor is a man, so he must be a rapist.
The Senator’s action is undebatably one that stinks of anti-male bigotry, pro-female bias, abuse of position and power—the case is absolutely none of Gillbrand’s business—and blazingly unfair. Gillibrand has no basis on which to endorse Sulkowicz’s campaign of vengeance.
Are there women, Democrats, feminists, or anti-campus sexual assault activists with the requisite fairness and integrity to recognize this and condemn Senator Gillibrand? I would be encouraged if we heard from them.
The least Gillibrand could have done was to require Sulkowicz, as a condition of her attendance, to bring her mattress along