Rutgers to offer co-ed dorms in response to gay student Tyler Clementi’s suicide

Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — New Jersey’s flagship state university has decided to allow male and female students to share rooms in three dorms in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for gay students after a highly publicized suicide last year.

Starting this fall, all students — whether gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — can choose either male or female roommates under the pilot program. Men and women will share bathrooms.

A similar, but smaller, pilot program is being launched at the Newark campus.

A number of other schools, including the University of Maryland, New York’s Columbia University and Washington’s George Washington University, offer similar housing options, according to the National Student Genderblind Campaign.

The organization is pressing for more programs like them, saying they’re a way for students to have roommates they’re comfortable with.

Rutgers got wide attention last year after freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River. Authorities say that days before, his roommate in a dorm used a webcam to capture Clementi during an intimate encounter with another man.

The roommate and a third freshman have been charged with invasion of privacy in the case. Their lawyers say they’re not guilty of any crimes.

Gay student groups have pushed for Rutgers to be friendlier to gay, lesbian and transgender students — including by offering gender-neutral housing — since Clementi’s death.

—  John Wright

Ex-principal of TX youth prison denies he gave inmates blow jobs, promised them birthday cake

John Paul Hernandez

The former principal of a West Texas juvenile prison testified Thursday that five male inmates who accuse him of sexual abuse made up the allegations in a possible attempt to get released from the facility.

John Paul Hernandez, 45, is on trial for 11 counts of abusing the inmates, including sexual assault. Hernandez’s former assistant at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Ray Brookins, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on similar charges last year. The abuse scandal led to an overhaul of the Texas Youth Commission.

Hernandez and Brookins allegedly gave the young male inmates candy and promised them birthday cake in exchange for abusing them. In some cases, the inmates were threatened with retaliation if they didn’t go along. Hernandez and Brookins would summon the inmates from their dorms late at night and take them to ball fields and darkened classrooms to carry out the abuse, according to a 2005 report by the Texas Rangers.

When authorities searched Brookins’ state-owned house at the school, they found a 16-year-old living there along with hundreds of pornographic videos, magazines and various sex toys.

All five of the inmates testified against Hernandez this week during his trial. Prosecutors are continuing their cross-examination of Hernandez today.

—  John Wright