Students on the campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, are still coming to grips with the national attention focused on their school in the wake of last week’s apparent suicide by freshman Tyler Clementi , as well as other recent suicides by younger teens who took their lives after enduring taunts about their sexuality.
Clementi’s death, following the alleged online posting by his roommate of video showing Clementi being intimate with another man, has opened up a dialogue on the campus about privacy and the need for respect among students.
Robert O’Brien, an assistant instructor in the anthropology department at Rutgers, told MTV News that the subject of Clementi’s death came up in his “Sexuality and Eroticism” class on Thursday night, and a number of his students “were really concerned” about what was going on and wondering what they could do about it.
O’Brien said one girl in his class attended high school with the two Rutgers freshmen who have been charged in the case. His student, who had been a part of her high school’s gay/straight alliance, broke down in tears over the incident, saying, “I failed. I failed Tyler and I failed them,” according to O’Brien.
“And that started a discussion in my class about how important the actions of students like her are,” he said. “What we don’t see is how many people were affected in a positive manner by her presence and what’s more important is that as a straight-identified person stepping out and talking to other straight-identified people and saying, ‘It’s not cool to say, “That’s so gay.” It’s not cool to harass people that way. It’s not cool to engage in sexist comments.’ Stepping outside of our privileged lives and trying to educate the people around us with stuff they don’t know because they haven’t experienced it is incredibly powerful.”
O’Brien invited the students to stay after class to continue talking about Clementi, and over the course of nearly three hours, they organized a protest that included more than 100 students marching across the campus, ending with 40 participating in a “die in,” pretending to be dead to symbolize the number of LGBT students and youth who have committed suicide this year.
Rutgers attendees are not alone in feeling sad about Clementi’s suicide, as everyone from Nicki Minaj to Perez Hilton and hundreds of online members of Clementi tribute sites have posted comments and videos offering messages of hope to teens who are struggling with bullying or thoughts of suicide.
If you have been bullied or harassed and are contemplating suicide or need someone to speak to, MTV News has compiled this list of resources , including hotlines and testimonials offering hope for those who are feeling hopeless.