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

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