Prosecutors Want To Know What Rutgers University Did After Tyler Clementi Reported Roommate’s Spying

After Tyler Clementi saw his roommate Dharun Ravi’s tweets revealing he was using his computer’s webcam to spy on Tyler getting intimate in their dorm room, the now-deceased Rutgers student got some advice about what to do on the forums of So he emailed his resident adviser and two of his superiors, explaining the invasion of privacy. Now prosecutors in New Jersey would like copies of those emails, thank you.

Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has subpoenaed the university to get them to turn over the emails to the R.A. to see what Rutgers did, if anything, to combat Ravi’s cyber bullying. Why the need to get the courts involved to secure the emails? Because, the Star-Ledger reports, prosecutors “felt some at the state university were not fully cooperating with the investigation into the high-profile suicide.” Rutgers denies it’s impeding the investigation — and might require subpoenas to turn over private records in order not to violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

So while Ravi and alleged co-conspirator Molly Wei face up to five years in prison if convicted of privacy violation (and up to 10 years if they’re convicted with a hate crime attachment), it remains to be seen whether Rutgers will be held liable for not doing enough to protect Tyler. In the meantime, the school is at least cover its (public relations) bases: University President Richard McCormick agreed to meet with LGBT students to discuss the crime.

New Jersey’s Sen. Frank Lautenberg says he’s working on a bill that will require any school receiving federal funds to have comprehensive anti-bullying policies, and provide funding for campuses to operate programs that fight harassment.

In the meantime, the frenzy surrounding Tyler’s death has left some wondering: Why is he getting all the attention? Jessica Moore, a black Seton Hall student, died at a party after leaping in front of an already-wounded friend when two men opened fire. Like Tyler, she was an aspiring musician. Unlike Tyler, her death — which came just days apart from Tyler’s — hasn’t seen cries for somebody to do something about it.

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  • tallskin2

    I bet there’s some very worried Rutgers bureaucrats right now trying to cover up their 1) inaction and/or 2) homophobia

  • Cam

    The reason Jessica Moore’s story isn’t getting national attention is because she died in an act of urban gun violence, and sadly enough that is all too common. She is by any definition of the word an absolute hero for saving her friends life.

    If she had been harrassed becuase of her race to the point of suicide at Rutgers and posted on Facebook that she was going to jump off the bridge, I have absolutly no doubt that the story would have followed the same route Tylers did. Groups like the NAACP would have publicised the incident much the same way that gay groups publicised Tylers and the media would have picked it up.

    Lastly, Tyler’s suicide happened during a time when attention was focuced on several other gay kids who had just killed themselves as well so it completely fit the narative of the news that month.

    To take this story and try to turn it around into something else is actually kind of shocking and pathetic. Carl Walker Hoover’s suicide after anti gay suicide was publicised, as was Lawence King’s as was Jaheem Herrera’s.

    We can identify and fear what happened to these kids, while what happened to Jessica Moore is outside the experience of most people.

  • Kieran

    Its sad how some people can use the tragic deaths of these two young students and deviously twist it into an opportunity to foment further divisions between blacks, whites, gays and straights. Can we give the tattered old race card a rest for a while?

  • Wild Puss

    Yes, we could give the race card a rest, except, imagine this scenario:
    “An 18 year old young woman from a religious African American family is secretly video recorded by her roommate and the videos are sent out over the internet. Ashamed and frightened of the consequences, she kills herself.”

  • Wild Puss

    OK. Queerty cut me off before I finished. P.S. The roommate is Caucasian. And the finish is this – the outcry and the polemics that would be launched by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would clog the airwaves. Life imprisonment and the death penalty would be called for from the pulpits. There would be marches, demonstrations, and maybe even riots.
    No need to go on.

  • wompman

    I’m sure the University thought nothing other than “uppity f-g, just know your place and let these people torture you for sport.” Unfortunately for them, they got caught. What they’ll actually do about it I’m not sure, because I’m still pretty certain his two harrassers will walk scott free without a slap on the wrist.

    A short time from now most people at that school (and in society in general) will go right back to not caring, or secretly celebrating the deaths of young gay people.

    Gay and lesbian people have to care. It is up to us to take care of our own. Politicians have shown complete cowardice or outright hatred for gay people and the law could give a fuck if we live or die, so its time for us to take care of ourselves. And our young people.

  • J T

    Well, it seems Frank Lautenberg is not showing complete cowardice or outright hatred.
    I’d say if anybody can articulate the legislation that could help, you should send it to Lautenberg’s office and to your own senators and congresspeople as well.
    What we need is legislation that could have prevented or dissuaded these two soulless homophobes from streaming his private sexual encounter live on the web in the first place; sped up the process on getting Clementi into a safer living arrangement and some counseling to deal with his experience upon his notification of several people at his school (they should be able to get someone OUT of a dorm room with a twisted individual like Dharun Ravi committing violations upon him and into an alternative environment THAT DAY, with counseling within 24 hours). There should be counselors on call who are gay and lesbian, so that the disclosure of sexuality and sexual details are less of a hurdle for someone who may have little or no experience talking face to face about their sexuality. Many people’s instinct is to say, “No, it’s okay, no, don’t make waves,” but I’ve seen people wounded after an accident or attack bleeding profusely from the head wave off assistance. People in shock, in denial, or literally unaware at first of the severity of the violation and the repercussions throughout all the aspects of their life are not necessarily the best judges of their own needs.
    Listen, there’s a lot that’s been said about, oh, there must have been something else, or oh, I could’ve withstood such a thing happening to me. The point of protections is to help those who CAN’T handle something themselves. We’re talking about someone who not only contemplated but committed suicide. Many people try to put up a brave face when they’re dealing with peers or bureaucrats, and will take the path of least resistance. If someone says “You’re okay to stay there, right? You don’t need me to transfer you tonight, right?” then that’s leading the person to agree rather than to make a choice. Better yet might be to have available a temporary lodging for the night, rather than ask the person if they need to pack up and move out right then and there.
    Just some thoughts. Does anybody have any others? General bullying doesn’t necessarily transform your entire existence in an instant the way transmitting video of a freshman’s homosexual encounter on the web does, and that type of harassment doesn’t need to be a pattern—even though, at two attempts, this was a pattern. I just want to make sure that whatever legislation might be cobbled together will address not only the more typical sorts of bullying and harassment but the sort of experience this poor young guy suffered.

  • J T

    Reading the last paragraph of my comment, I don’t want to send a misimpression that I’m in any way diminishing the profound impact of bullying, as obviously that is the cause of so many of these other suicides and the tortured existence of so many who live through it. What I meant was that the article read as though the legislation might focus attention on traditional instances of bullying and sexual harassment, while the Clementi case was as bad as it needed to get in that first and apparently non-confrontational incident.

  • B

    No. 6 · wompman wrote, “I’m sure the University thought nothing other than “uppity f-g, just know your place and let these people torture you for sport.”

    There’s no evidence so far for that claim. According to the deceased had contacted his RA (RA’s are students) on Sept 21, and the RA asked him to email a description of what had happened. The suicide occurred the next day. indicates that there were only 17 hours between a post describing him contacting an RA and the subsequent suicide.

    Even an unusually rapid response to the reported problem – a spying roommate – would take more than a day.

  • Yellow Bone

    @wompman: I agree with your theory. Rutgers University students are already writing about how the gays are “manipulating” his suicide and saying that he was just like them and that he just “couldn’t take the hardships of life”

    I think Rutgers might have had an under-culture of homophobia and anti-gay bias. They don’t want the gay rights groups “manipulating” (talk about) his suicide, because it would reveal that and their reputation would take hit points.

    (I DO agree slightly that his death is being manipulated, but only because the Human Rights Campaign used him and the others who committed suicide to collect money for their next dinner party)

  • Yellow Bone

    @Yellow Bone: oh, and I think homophobia towards Clementi himself was a LOT worse than just streaming his relations. There was something deeper, and I think it had to do with the school, or at least it’s inability to protect him.

  • Cam

    Rutgers claiming the gays are “Manipulating” Tylers death sounds an awful lot like the students and Constance McMillion’s School in Mississippi attacking her because her complaints were just to “Get Attention”.

    What bothers them is that somebody is bringing attention to the situation. Hey, Rutgers, here’s an idea, if you don’t like the attention that the suicide of one of your students after horrendous and illegal invasions of privacy caused, then do something about it.

  • B

    No. 12 · Cam wrote, “Rutgers claiming the gays are “Manipulating” Tylers death sounds an awful lot like the students and Constance McMillion’s School in Mississippi attacking her because her complaints were just to ‘Get Attention'”

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the opinion of one writer published as an editorial in a student newspaper is not the opinion of a university.

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