July 21, 2018 | ° F

Suicide brings LGBTQ, bullying concerns to forefront

Photo by Andrew Howard |

More than 20 University students lie outside of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus during an LGBTQ rally for safer spaces and communal acceptance. The rally was in response to Tyler Clementi's suicide on Sept. 23 after his roommate Dharun Ravi took a webcam video of him participating in sexual activities with another man.

When the Middlesex County Court indicted Dharun Ravi with invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence, family of the late first-year student Tyler Clementi said the justice system needed to prove whether the 15 counts are true so that accountability could be established under law.

"We are eager to have the process move forward for justice in this case and to reinforce the standards of acceptable conduct in our society," according to the statement.

The charges against Ravi are the latest addition to the ongoing situation that erupted after Ravi streamed a webcam video of Clementi participating in sexual actions with another man.

Clementi committed suicide on Sept. 23 by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.

Photo: Cameron Stroud

Some members of the campus community mourned the loss of their classmate, Tyler Clementi, with a candlelight vigil on College Avenue.

"Our University community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about the earlier incident," University President Richard L. McCormick said. "I ask that all members of the Rutgers community honor his life by committing to the values of civility, dignity, compassion and respect for each other."

Various media invaded the University campus as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) groups rallied for safe spaces and communal acceptance on the College Avenue campus.

"We're here. We're queer. We want safety in our homes," the more than 20 people lying outside the Rutgers Student Center said during a Sept. 30 LGBTQ rally.

The death of Clementi and the resulting LGBTQ protests occurred during the start of Project Civility, a University initiative to improve ethical conduct among the students.

Robert O'Brien, an assistant instructor in the Department of Anthropology, said this was the reason why a rally needed to take place.

"We need to point out that civility requires acknowledgment of oppressions and inequalities that many people walk though their days not experiencing," O'Brien said. "We are rejecting the notion of civility without safety and putting our bodies on the line to do so."

While some in the University community sprung to action, others mourned Clementi's death on Oct. 3 with a candlelight vigil and reflected on the life of their lost classmate.

"In the wake of recent tragedies [on our campus] and schools and universities nationwide, much kindness is extended to the Rutgers community," said Jenny Kurtz, University director of diverse community affairs. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the communities and individuals impacted by these events."

But whether students yelled or prayed, all of their actions came under the national spotlight after numerous media organizations closely reported Clementi's death in the weeks following.

Some students said the extensive media coverage provided a chance to solve issues of inequality and discrimination in the homosexual community.

"A lot of people all over the country are killing themselves for being gay because they are being tormented," said Chelsea Stahl, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "I think by the media shedding light on it, it will show the problem and hopefully people will be less inclined to do so."

Others attacked the media for being intrusive and felt nothing positive would result in their coverage.

"[The media] almost always have an agenda. So I doubt that they actually cared that this boy died and that these two [students] are suffering the consequences for it," said Maria Allen, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "It was more politicized, and they used it for their own purposes."

But following a town hall meeting, which attracted these media outlets, politicians and famous alumni, students said the coverage of Clementi's death diminished.

"Now news groups have left, people are talking about it in a much lesser degree," said Kailynn Barbour, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Malcolm Bare agreed with Barbour, saying Clementi's suicide disappeared from conversations as the fall semester came to a close.

"I feel like students are changing their focus [to] exams than the tragedy that happened a couple of weeks ago," he said.

Although the national media halted detailing Clementi's death and the resulting rallies, articles about anti-bullying legislation and gender-neutral housing show the effect of the first-year student's suicide never left.

"There are a lot of issues perhaps we don't think about for the average student, but for the LGBTQ community and particularly the transgender community, it's a huge issue," said Executive Director of Residence Life Joan Carbone, regarding the implementation of gender-neutral housing.

At a University Senate meeting on Jan. 31, Co-Founder of Project Civility Kathleen Hull said the University could learn from the details of Clementi's death as a way to improve moral and ethical standards.

"Any community can take a tragedy and shape it to help move on and better [promote] civility on campus," Hull said.

Six months after Clementi's death, School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Enrico Cabredo gave proof to Hull's statement as students again reflected on their classmate's suicide.

"As tragic as Tyler's suicide was, it made us really close, and I've made some of the best friends of my entire life," said Cabredo, a Davidson C Hall resident and Clementi's classmate. "[Prior to Clementi's death], nobody had [regarded] that hall as sort of a family. [We were] a group of young people who had never had this happen before."

Devin Sikorski

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