Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gay student's suicide stirs grief and outrage at Flagler College

The death of a gay teen-ager in New Jersey triggered sorrow at Flagler College, where students and others said Thursday it's a tragedy that the man killed himself after his roommate broadcast a secret dorm sex tape.
"This incident shows no one has respect for what other people do in their private life and that any boundary will be crossed," said Danny Burke, a graduate of Flagler College.
Yvan Kelly, assistant dean of academic affairs at Flagler College, expressed sorrow over the suicide.
“I just pray that it will never happen here," Kelly said. "It is a great tragedy and a great loss.”

Flagler College students, from left, Betsy Ingraham, Danielle Jordan and Maggie Eucalitto. Photo credit: Tiffany Langello

Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week after his roommate allegedly broadcast live-streaming video of him having a sexual encounter with another man.
Clementi's death stirred outrage around around the country and in Florida.
Flagler College freshman Danielle Jordan called Clementi's death "terrible."
"I’m heartbroken," she said.
Students at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., are not allowed to broadcast images of others without their consent, said Dan Stewart, dean of student services.
“Flagler College has a policy about photographing and video taping without permission,” he said.
Students aren't allowed to publish or broadcast images of other students unless they are aware the images were taken and have given approval for their exhibition, Stewart said.
“If it happened, the student would have to go through the disciplinary hearing procedure and that could lead to suspension and expulsion from Flagler,” he said.
Two Rutgers University freshmen, Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 19, are charged with invasion of privacy in connection with Clementi's death.
Police say Ravi and Wei allegedly video-taped Clementi while he was having a sexual encounter with another man.
No court date has been set and both students have been released from jail.
Ravi was released on $25,000 bail. Wei was released on her own recognizance with a promise to appear. If convicted, they could receive up to five years in federal prison.
Legal experts say Clementi's family may also sue Ravi and Wei in civil court. Possible charges include intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful death and civil invasion of privacy.
But on Thursday, the family was asking for time to grieve.
A statement from the family said:
"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all. The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students."
Meantime, Clementi's suicide sparked a flurry of comments on social networking websites.
In just 21 hours, 23,355 users visited a Facebook page called “In Honor of Tyler Clementi" and clicked on a button indicating they liked the page.
And that number was spiraling Thursday afternoon as hundreds of users clicked the "like" button every minute.
At least four pages had been created as a tribute to Clementi. They showed photos of Clementi along with thousands of sympathetic comments and links to articles about his death.
Many of the Facebook pages urged tolerance and understanding.
One page stated: “All comments that seek to harass his tormentors, his family, or his memory will be removed from this page; all hate speech or comments that fail to respect the grieving communities will be removed from this page.”
Some advocates of gay rights called for safe places for gays on university and college campuses.
In St. Augustine, Jesse Frezza, 21, a barista at Crucial Coffee, said if Clementi had been more confident in his sexuality, this tragedy may not have happened.
“People only know about people bullying gays because it’s so widely publicized in the U.S. now. But if he had just come out at an earlier age, his roommate might not have felt the need to publicize it the way he did,” Frezza said.
Freeza said the roommate, Ravi,"should have just talked" to Clementi about his sexuality rather than broadcasting a sex tape.
Frezza said he declared his homosexuality to his mother when he was 14. He said coming out to her and a close friend sparked a support system that helped him develop his identity.
"I came out to my mom in 9th grade. Immediately, I became the gay guy that everyone wanted to be friends with," Freeza said.
"I was never bullied. Kids shouldn't be scared of who they are are. It's my life and I am going to live it on my terms."
That same kind of self-confidence, Frezza said, could have saved Clementi, whose last Facebook message reads, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

Student journalists at Flagler College gathered the material for this story as an in-class exercise. They had about one hour to collect the material and write the story.
Class members include:
Kelly Gibbs, Marina Torri, Tiffany Langello, Kayla Ward, Lauren Ely, Elin Karlsson, Nick Cardoso, Kylynn Pelkey, Cassandra Kapelson, Katie Taylor, James Bonus, Emily Hoover, Amanda Newberg, Lindy Almony, Brittany Swan

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