Tyler Clementi’s parents say they don’t want harsh punishment for classmates

Tyler Clementi

Associated Press

NEWARK, New Jersey — The parents of a university student who killed himself after authorities said his intimate encounter with a man was captured by a webcam want his classmates’ invasion-of-privacy cases prosecuted, but they don’t want them to receive harsh punishment.

Tyler Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi, issued a statement Tuesday, six months after he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge that connects New Jersey and New York.

“The past six months have been the most difficult and painful of our lives,” they said. “We have done our best to deal with the grief and pain of the death of our son Tyler, in awful circumstances while dealing with the crush of media attention, the pending criminal investigations and, of course, our own unanswered questions.”

The Clementis have not granted any interviews, but have released a few statements to reporters. The latest one was sent first to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Clementi’s roommate at Rutgers University, Dharun Ravi, and classmate Molly Wei are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy. Authorities said that last September, they used a webcam to watch part of Clementi’s encounter with another man. Within days, Clementi killed himself.

Family attorney Paul Mainardi said the Clementis feel it’s important to establish it was not “a college prank.”

Gay rights and anti-bullying groups seized on the suicide and made it a symbol of the movement to take bullying, particularly of young gay people, seriously.

The charges against Ravi and Wei do not link the alleged spying to Clementi’s suicide.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has weighed additional bias intimidation charges, but no decision on those more serious charges has been announced. Mainardi said he believes the investigation is substantially complete.

Lawyers for the students, both of whom have since withdrawn from Rutgers, have said their clients are not guilty of any crimes. The lawyers did not immediately return calls on Tuesday.

The fallout from the case has been immense. The Point, a scholarship-granting group based in Los Angeles, has announced a scholarship in Clementi’s memory.

The Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Youth Orchestra, where Clementi, a violinist, had been a member, have had performances in his memory and named concertmaster chairs after him.

His parents say they are also starting a foundation that would raise public awareness of bullying, assist vulnerable young people and encourage research and awareness of the effects of electronic media.

Rutgers has decided to allow men and women to be roommates in parts of certain dorms — largely as a way to make gay, lesbian and transgender students more comfortable.

And celebrities from President Barack Obama to entertainer Ellen DeGeneres have campaigned publicly against bullying.

—  John Wright

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

The 5 most famous lesbian scenes on film

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in ‘Black Swan.’

CHRISTY LEMIRE | AP Movie Critic

LOS ANGELES — Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play bitter ballet rivals in Darren Aronofsky’s trippy Black Swan. But the heightened emotion they feel for each other ends up bubbling over into a passionate sex scene that’s had people talking for months before the film’s release.

Well, now Black Swan is finally here, so it’s a great opportunity — and not gratuitous at all, really — to take a look at the five most famous lesbian scenes on film. A side note: Showgirls might have been a serious contender, but it appeared last week among the five most irresistible guilty-pleasure movies. It is tempting to find a reason to talk about Showgirls every week, though …

Mulholland Dr. (2001): The first intimate encounter between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring is soft and sweet … but because this is a David Lynch movie, naturally the relationship between these two women becomes darker and more complicated. Watts, as aspiring starlet Betty Elms (at this point in the film, at least), gets tangled up with Harring’s gorgeous amnesiac Rita. As the two embark on an adventure, playing girl-detective to solve the mystery of Rita’s past, their fear and loneliness lead to a kiss which leads to one of the loveliest lesbian scenes ever filmed. In a movie full of twists, this is a rare moment of pure, instinctive emotion.

Wild Things (1998): It starts out as a face-slapping, hair-pulling cat fight in a swimming pool and ends up in a make-out session, complete with bikinis and T-shirts being tossed aside with sultry music in the background. Denise Richards plays the naughty rich girl and Neve Campbell plays the naughty poor girl; despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks, they manage to get together to concoct some rape accusations against their high school guidance counselor (Matt Dillon). The fact that this takes place in South Florida makes the whole movie feel even more steamy and tawdry. Wild Things easily could have made last week’s guilty-pleasure list, too. It’s so multipurpose.

• Bound (1996): Before The Wachowski Brothers entered the Matrix, the writing-directing duo made their debut with this funny, tense and sexy neo-noir. Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, the seemingly ditzy girlfriend of a mobster; Gina Gershon plays Corky, the maintenance woman in their apartment building who just got out of prison. Violet’s attraction to Corky is instantaneous, and eventually the two cook up a scheme to steal $2 million in stashed cash from Violet’s boyfriend. A ridiculous amount of contrived meetings and flirting leads to an intense — but artfully photographed — love scene between the two women.

D.E.B.S. (2004): As if it weren’t enough to have a bunch of beautiful, teenage spies dressed in naughty schoolgirl outfits, their leader (Sara Foster) ends up secretly falling for the deadly criminal (Jordana Brewster) who is their primary target. Writer-director Angela Robinson’s film isn’t exactly great cinema but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and features plenty of fun, cheeky moments. (Its tagline: “They’re crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies.”) That’s indeed true of Foster and Brewster, who share a few kisses and teasing moments before their eventual playful and passionate hook-up.

Cruel Intentions (1999): The most chaste of the five on this list, but it did earn Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair the highly coveted “Best Kiss” prize at the MTV Movie Awards. In this prep-school version of Dangerous Liaisons, Gellar functions in the Glenn Close role as a conniving and manipulative rich girl who dominates Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Blair is in the Uma Thurman role as a malleable innocent. Since Blair’s character has never kissed a boy before, Gellar’s teaches her what to do during a picnic in Central Park: “I’m gonna stick my tongue in your mouth, and when I do that I want you to massage my tongue with yours.” It all sounds pretty straightforward.

—  John Wright

Rutgers holds vigil for gay student who killed self

Tyler Clementi

Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University held a silent vigil Sunday night to remember a student who committed suicide after his sexual encounter with a man in his dormitory room was secretly streamed online.

The tribute to 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi drew a few hundred people, many holding candles, to the school’s campus in New Brunswick.

While some area religious officials briefly addressed the crowd during the hour-long vigil, few words were spoken by the participants. Most in attendance took the time to reflect on what had happened to Clementi, sharing hugs and holding hands with others in a show if unity.

Among those attending was Rutgers student Julie Burg, who said she wanted to spread the message that help is available for students in crisis.

“There are many groups anywhere you go to that could help support you,” Burg told WCBS-TV in New York.

Burg was joined at the vigil by her mother, Annmarie Burg, who was saddened by the events leading to Clementi’s death.

“It had to take such an unfortunate incident like this to create, probably, an even larger awareness,” the mother said.

Prosecutors say Clementi’s roommate and another student used a webcam to broadcast on the Internet live images of Clementi having the intimate encounter.

Clementi, a promising violinist, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River three days later. His body was identified Thursday.

Rutgers President Richard McCormick said the vigil was an opportunity for students and staff to come together and “reaffirm our commitment to the values of civility, dignity, compassion and respect.”

The vigil was the latest in a series of remembrances for Clementi at the university that included the establishment of a Facebook group, In Honor of Tyler Clementi.

On Friday, students wore black and were encouraged to leave flowers or mementoes at a makeshift memorial for Clementi. The Rutgers Glee Club marched to the memorial and performed a rendition of “Rutgers Prayer,” which is traditionally sung when an important member of the Rutgers community dies or a tragedy happens at the university.

On Saturday, the school had a moment of silence for Clementi before the start of its homecoming football game against Tulane.

Clementi’s death was one of a string of suicides last month involving teens believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. On Friday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old central California boy who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

—  John Wright