Two U. students face charges for privacy invasion
Eighteen-year-old University first-year student and musician Tyler Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., died last week.
University President Richard L. McCormick expressed words of condolence in a statement.
"Our University community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about the earlier incident," 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."
Clementi's death came soon after two first-year students at the University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy student Molly Wei and School of Arts of Sciences student Dharun Ravi, allegedly recorded his involvement in sexual acts in his room in Davidson Hall on Busch campus.
Wei and Ravi are individually charged with two counts of invasion of privacy after secretly accessing a video camera in the room of Clementi, another Davidson Hall C resident, and using it to record a sexual encounter and transmit it via the Internet, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said.
"What we're alleging is that the camera was placed in the room, and the victim was not aware of this," Middlesex County Public Information Officer Jim O'Neill said.
Wei and Ravi allegedly viewed and transmitted the live image on Sept. 19, O'Neill said.
Ravi wrote Sept. 19 on his Twitter page "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went to molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
And on Sept.21, he wrote "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."
Ravi faces two additional counts of invasion of privacy for attempting to watch and transmit another encounter involving the same student on Sept. 21, Kaplan said.
Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22.
Wei surrendered to Rutgers University Police Department and was released on her own recognizance Monday, Kaplan said. Ravi, who surrendered to police Tuesday morning, was released on $25,000 bail.
Under New Jersey statutes, it is a fourth-degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that individual's consent and a third-degree crime to transmit or distribute such images, Kaplan said. The penalty for a third-degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years.
The case is still under investigation.
"If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the University's standards of decency and humanity," McCormick said.
Although Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling refused to confirm or deny reports about the case or the students involved, he said there are consequences for such behavior at the University.
"The [University] Code of Student Conduct has an element that says that students may not do unauthorized videotaping or recording of other students," he said. "So that would violate the Code of Student Conduct."
The University's Code of Student Conduct outlines penalties ranging from reprimanding students to permanent expulsion, Blimling said.
Depending on the circumstances, the administrative hearing officer and Office of Student Conduct may determine the punishment, or a student can opt to have a hearing before a committee that will make a recommendation as to how the University should respond, he said.
"Our goal in dealing with any student who is involved in dealing with any kind of issue of student conduct is an educational goal, is to help them understand how their behavior would have affected other people and get them to change that behavior and learn from other people," Blimling said.
But Blimling said no one should draw conclusions from hearsay.
"So often when reports of any kind surface, that information that comes out initially is misconstrued by the media," he said. "So I would not believe everything that the media has currently published."
Some residents of Davidson Hall, who wished to remain anonymous but are close to Ravi, agree with Blimling's idea. They say the media has distorted the story.
"No one knows [what really happened,]" one student said.
Neighbors in Davidson Hall said Ravi is a friendly, funny young man with a good heart, who would not purposefully hurt anyone.
"He's a good guy who made a poor decision," one student said.
Students said Clementi asked his roommate Ravi to leave the room so that he could have time alone with a guest on the evening of Sept. 19.
A strange, male who appeared older than the average college student later arrived at the room, they said. Ravi went to Wei's room, where he used a computer to access footage of the room from his webcam, they said.
Ravi had no intention of witnessing any kind of intimate encounter between the two, but rather wanted to see if anything unusual was taking place inside his room, as he was not familiar with Clementi's guest, they said.
"He just wanted to see what was going on," a student said.
Upon seeing what was taking place inside the room, Ravi immediately closed the window on the screen, the student said.
A similar series of events took place on the evening of Sept. 21, and Ravi then stayed in another friend's room for the night, a student said.
No footage of either encounter was recorded or broadcast, students said.
"[Ravi] had no intention to violate Tyler in any way," a student said.
Clementi was a quiet young man who was often seen using his computer.
"He was very friendly," a student said.
Students in need of counseling services can call (732)-932-7884 or visit a counseling center either at 17 Senior Street on the College Avenue campus or 61 Nichol Avenue on Douglass campus.
"We're always available to the students," said Jill Richards, director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
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