Saturday, October 2, 2010

Zero Tolerance for Hate

Last week, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge. The Rutgers University freshman had just been outed by two fellow freshmen who secretly videotaped him in an intimate encounter with another man in his dorm room, then broadcast the video live on the internet. One of those fellow students was his own roommate, whom Clementi had previously described as “an asshole from time to time.”

The roommates had had some issues getting along, as evidenced by Facebook posts Clementi had made. One night, knowing that Clementi was going to have a gentleman friend over for the evening, the roommate set up a webcam aimed directly at Clementi’s bed, with a note indicating he would broadcast what was recorded. Despite going to his dorm’s resident assistant for help, Clementi didn’t wait for help to happen. Instead he killed himself.

Roommate Dharun Ravi and student Molly Wei have since been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy. Hmm. Somehow that seems…too easy.

I’ve written before about bullies, but this story is so far past bullying. It’s harassment, it’s intimidation, and despite sexual orientation not being included as a protected group, it is most certainly a hate crime. It’s so much more than just invasion of privacy. Those two students intentionally and maliciously set out to destroy another person’s reputation and mental stability. There is no way to misconstrue their actions, and there is no way to chalk it up to a mere prank.

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick wrote, "These actions gravely violate the university's standards of decency and humanity." I couldn’t agree more. It is sickening what these two young people did, and they did not do it just against Tyler Clementi, they did it against humanity. The message they publicly proclaimed by capturing and posting this video was that a gay person is not worthy of basic human respect. It sickens me that two people so young could have so much hatred in them, and further that it was toward another person they’d not even known for a month. To make such a calculated effort to secretly expose another person’s private activities for no other reason than hate makes me physically ill.

These two should be expelled from the university and prosecuted to the strongest extent the law allows. Yes, make an example out of them. Point to them and say, “THIS is what hate looks like. This is what intolerance looks like. And this will not be accepted.”

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