by Dina Estelle Williams
Last fall, Tyler Clementi was a promising college freshman. Sadly, just weeks after arriving at The State University of New Jersey—Rutgers University—Tyler jumped over the George Washington bridge on September 22, 2010. Tyler committed suicide when he discovered his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had broadcast online his sexual encounter with another man.
19-year old Dharun was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury April 20, 2011, on 15 counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.
Tyler’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi, announced plans to start the Tyler Clementi Foundation in a statement released to the Star-Ledger of Newark. The Foundation will focus on promoting awareness of bullying, particularly cyber-bulling. Mr. and Mrs. Clementi are also in “negotiations” with Rutgers, according to their attorney, Paul Mainardi. The parents have filed notice preserving their right to sue Rutgers, stating the university failed to put in place or enforce policies to deter such acts.
The suicide incident led to a national conversation about bullying. President Obama remarked in a taped video, “You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied and there is a whole world waiting for you filled with possibilities.” New Jersey toughened its anti-bullying law in the months after Clementi’s suicide, including Governor Chris Christie signing a law in January requiring the codes of conduct at public colleges to address bullying.
Gay rights activists cheered the indictment as an act of justice and a warning to would-be bullies. Behaviors and actions, especially those deemed different, will always be debated and discussed. Nevertheless, it is quite disturbing that a private activity was videotaped and shared over the Internet with the intent to damage a person’s mind, spirit, and status. While Dharun could possibly spend 10-15 years behind bars, Tyler’s life is forever gone from this earth.
Foderaro, Lisa W. (March 22, 2011), Parents of Rutgers Student in Suicide Say No ‘Harsh’ Penalty Is Needed, The New York Times,