Tyler Clementi’s roommate indicted on 15 counts

Tyler Clementi

Prosecutors in New Jersey released an indictment claiming that Tyler Clementi’s roommate at Rutgers University, Dharun Ravi, destroyed evidence and sent false tweets in the days after Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, according to ABC News.

Ravi secretly videotaped Clementi having sex with another man last fall and streamed the video live on the Internet, which led Clementi to commit suicide.

Ravi has been indicted on 15 counts, including charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and tampering with evidence by a Middlesex County grand jury. Prosecutors claim Ravi videotaped Clementi’s sexual encounter and streamed it online for the purpose of intimidating Clementi because he was gay. Then when Clementi died and Ravi started worrying that he might be charged with a crime over the incident, prosecutors say, Ravi sent false tweets and tried to delete tweets from his Twitter feed to mislead investigators.

Prosecutors also say Ravi tried to convince other students not to testify against him.

Ravi’s alleged accomplice, Rutgers student Molly Wei, also faces possible charges, but evidence against her has not yet been presented to the grand jury.

—  admin

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

Not-so-secure security with new TSA procedures

Backscatter scanners, aggressive pat-downs give us a false sense of security when the terrorists have already won by making us afraid

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

As a gay man, I have been groped before. In fact, it used to be hard to get a drink in a gay bar without getting a few “friendly contacts.”

Was it welcome? Not always. Did I feel violated? Not really; it came with the territory.

So that said, how would I feel about being groped by a blue-gloved Transportation Security agent? Violated!

First and foremost, the new security procedures being added to current screenings are ineffective. Recently, a German TV show demonstrated clearly how the exact chemicals used in the infamous “underwear bomb” could be walked through the full-body scanners without detection.

Additionally, the whole “three bottles with no more than three ounces in a plastic bag” ruse does nothing to prevent high-powered explosive components from being brought through screening. That same TV segment showed how these passed right through the scanner and X-ray with no notice.

Three bottles of three ounces of chemicals were plenty to create a roaring incendiary bomb with sufficient heat to burn through the metal fry pan holding it.

The whole security screening is more for us than for security. It makes us feel like the TSA and the government are doing something to protect us. It is more theater than security — and now it’s getting really personal.

The companies that make the scanners have sold the TSA and the government the bill of goods that these invasive X-ray machines are foolproof. They aren’t.

They also have tried to convince us that they are not an invasion of privacy. Well, they are, Blanche; they are.

We have been told the image of your naked body is being viewed by some anonymous person upstairs at the airport who supposedly will not share the image with anyone. Gizmodo, a high-tech online site, already obtained more than 100 images stored improperly by U.S. marshals in Orlando. Perhaps they would make nice greeting cards?

We have been told the scanners pose no health threat. However, if you travel frequently or are part of an airline crew, you get exposed to the radiation from these scanners over and over — and the jury is out on that.

Back in April, faculty members at the University of California, San Francisco, sent a letter expressing their concerns about possible health risks related to the backscatter X-ray scanners to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

So if you opt for a “pat down” from a TSA agent, which is your right if you decide you don’t want to go through the scanner, you get a not-so-delicate, full-body grope, sans happy ending. That’s where I get back to the whole violated thing.

Standard procedure is male agents pat down men and female agents pat down women. What about gay men and lesbians? Do we get a choice?

And even more to the point, what about someone who is transgender? It really gets difficult and becomes a clear invasion of privacy when you have to explain that the agent might not find the same anatomy they are expecting to find.

Again it’s an indignity, and just plain unnecessary.

I know we all want to be safe when flying, but if our line of defense is a group of poorly trained and underpaid folks wearing plastic gloves, we are already on shaky ground. According to many security experts, if the terrorists get to the airport, it’s too late anyway.

So speaking of terrorists, I feel pretty sure I will get a lot of flack from people asking me if I “want the terrorists to win?” Well, here is the stark truth: They already have won.

Their intent is not so much killing and destruction but terror. Look at our laws and how a small group of radicals managed to scare us into passing the Patriot Act and dozens of other measures that supposedly provide security at the expense of freedom.

Even the dastardly crime of 9/11, though it was spectacular, was far less deadly than the yearly total of deaths of innocent Americans through automobile accidents. Yet we have no “war on driving,” or even common sense safety reform for cars and roadways.

Why? Because that doesn’t terrify us. We falsely believe that we are safe in our cars and on our roadways, but get cold sweats every time we board a plane.
If that isn’t a triumph for the terrorists I don’t know what is.

Do I believe we should have no security at all? No, absolutely we should. But it should be balanced with our fundamental right to not be photographed in the nude or groped in the airport.

It’s time we stopped letting equipment manufacturers guide our security precautions and start actually weighing the risks and evaluating the practical measures that can reduce them.

If you actually believe these invasive searches are needed, why not just go the “full monty” and issue bathrobes to all passengers? Then we and we can all fly naked.

Oh yes, and then there is that whole cavity search thing. Now that might actually make flying fun again!

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Campus Pride calls for expulsion of 2 Rutgers students for invading Tyler Clementi’s privacy

Tyler Clementi

Campus Pride, an organization of college student leaders and organizations, is calling for the expulsion of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei from Rutgers University for their invasion of privacy that led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

In an e-mail to Dallas Voice, the group wrote, “Now is the time to act decisively and send a clear message at Rutgers and at colleges across the country that LGBT harassment and hate will not be tolerated any longer.”

The group said the Rutgers University Code of Student Conduct prohibits “making or attempting to make an audio or video recording of any person(s) on University premises in bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, or other premises where there is an expectation of privacy with respect to nudity and/or sexual activity, without the knowledge and consent of all participants subject to such recordings.”

“Ravi and Wei acted maliciously to secretly tape Tyler Clementi, even posting comments to encourage others to ‘video chat’ and watch. This is an egregious act of invasion of privacy. Both students should be expelled. Period,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride.

Campus Pride recently issued a report titled, “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.” In its survey of more than 5,000 people, Campus Pride found that 23 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment. Among transgender students, faculty and staff, 39 percent reported harassment. The study is available on the website.

—  David Taffet

Judy Shepard statement on gay-bullying suicides

There’s a national conference call under way as we write this to coordinate vigils in honor of the four gay-bullying suicides of the last three weeks. Since we’re not taking part in the call, we figured we’d share this statement that just came across from Judy Shepard. We’ll update you on any plans for local vigils as soon as they’re announced. Shepard is, of course, the mother of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998. Here’s her statement:

Judy Shepard: We Must All Protect Youth from Suicide

Our family, and the staff and board at the Matthew Shepard Foundation, are all deeply saddened by the devastating report of at least the fourth gay or gay-perceived teen to commit suicide in this country in the last month.

Reports say that Tyler Clementi, 18, leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after a roommate allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room, and apparently invited others, via Twitter, to view it online. Regardless of his roommate’s alleged tweet, Tyler had apparently made no statement about his own sexual orientation. I’m sure we will all learn more about this terrible tragedy as legal proceedings unfold, but the contempt and disregard behind such an invasion of privacy seems clear. In the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to Tyler’s family as they mourn their loss.

In the last month there has been a shocking series of teen suicides linked to bullying, taunting, and general disrespect regarding sexual orientation, in every corner of America. Just a few days ago, Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., passed away after 10 days on life support after he hanged himself. Police say he had been mercilessly taunted by fellow students over his perceived sexual orientation.

Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself a few weeks ago at his Indiana home after years of reported harassment by students who judged him to be gay. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old in Harris, TX, who had recently come out, took his life with a gun after, his parents say, their efforts to alert school officials to ongoing bullying were not acted upon.

Many Americans also learned this week about Tyler Wilson, an 11-year-old boy in Ohio who decided to join a cheerleading squad that had been all-female. As a gymnast, he was interested in the athletic elements of cheering. He was taunted with homophobic remarks and had his arm broken by two schoolmates who apparently assumed him to be gay. He told “Good Morning America” that since returning to school, he’s been threatened with having his other arm broken, too.

Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect.

Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.

Suicide is a complicated problem and it is too easy to casually blame it on a single factor in a young person’s life, but it is clear that mistreatment by others has a tremendously negative effect on a young person’s sense of self worth and colors how he or she sees the world around them. Parents, educators and peers in the community need to be vigilant to the warning signs of suicide and other self-destructive behaviors in the young people in their lives, and help them find resources to be healthy and productive. We urge any LGBT youth contemplating suicide to immediately reach out to The Trevor Project, day or night, at (866) 4-U-TREVOR [866-488-7386].

Judy Shepard
President, Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors
September 29, 2010

—  John Wright

Should health officials ask about orientation?

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin

… And am I really agreeing with Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton?

Openly gay Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin introduced a bill in the House Energy and Commerce committee that would require federal health officials to ask patients their sexual orientation and gender identity. And there’s more wrong with this post than the fact that I’m sort of agreeing with Joe Barton — I also picked up the article about Baldwin’s bill from Fox News.

Baldwin thinks the requirement would help illustrate the disparity in health care that gays and lesbians receive compared to the general population.

Barton thinks it’s an invasion of privacy and that young people might not even know what the question means.

I think it will scare the hell out of some gays and lesbians who are afraid of being outed to their families and employers.

Baldwin argues that refusal to answer would never be a barrier to health care.

While I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m straight, others are more circumspect and I respect that.

What do you think?

—  David Taffet

Big Brother really IS watching!

I heard a story about this situation this morning on the TV news as I was getting ready for work, and then I found this AP story about it.

Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia issues laptops to all its high school students, supposedly to help them with their studies and to make sure everyone has appropriate equipment. Turns out, though, school district officials apparently had some other uses in mind.

Come to find out, school district officials were able to remotely activate the Web cams built into the laptops, and through those Web cams, watch and take photos and videos of the students — and their families — as they went about their daily lives in the privacy of their own homes.

All this came to light when an assistant principal called a Harriton High School student to the office to reprimand the student for some kind of “inappropriate behavior” district officials saw the student engaging in at home.

Folks, it is scary (and as our 13-year-old son said, creepy) enough that these people not only could but would spy on these students and their families this way. It is a total invasion of privacy and must surely be illegal. But what makes it even worse, to me, is that a school administrator felt he (or she) had the right to reprimand a student for something the student did in the privacy of his (or her) own home!

I really really really hope there are some criminal charges — not to mention some civil lawsuits — filed over this.

—  admin