Before Tyler Clementi's Suicide, Rutgers Planned 'Project Civility'

Discussions about bullying, violence and technology already were scheduled at university.

Tyler Clementi has been described as a sweet, shy Rutgers University freshman and accomplished violinist. The 18-year-old jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge on September 22 after his roommate allegedly posted video of Clementi's dorm-room encounter with another male student.

His death came just days before the campus launch of Project Civility, a two-year initiative aimed at fostering respect and politeness among Rutgers students.

The long-in-the-works program, which involves panel discussions, workshops and lectures, launched Wednesday night — the same night police pulled Clementi's body from the Hudson River — with a speech by Pier M. Forni. A Johns Hopkins University professor of Italian literature and civility expert, Forni has overseen similar projects around the country.

MTV News visited the New Brunswick, New Jersey, campus of Rutgers on Thursday to talk to students about Project Civility and what impact Clementi's death might have on their plans to promote kindness among peers.

Scott Lazes, who produced a short documentary on the project, said news of Clementi's suicide broke just as Wednesday night's kick-off event was unfolding.

"What's really interesting is that the next two lectures — the immediate next one is about civility and bullying and violence, and the lecture in November is about technology," Lazes said about the "Uncivil Gadgets? Changing Technologies and Civil Behavior" discussion slated for the fall. "All this sort of converged at once, and I'm not one to really believe in fate or predestination, but I could not avoid the feeling like this project was meant to happen."

Lazes said there have been a lot of questions from the local and national media about what Rutgers is going to do to respond to Clementi's suicide.

"The truth is: We were planning on raising awareness of civility on campus for a long time now," he said of Project Civility, which has been in the works for almost a year. "We've been thinking about this for a long time, and it's just remarkable that all of this converged at the launch of the initiative."

Whether they attend because of the notoriety surrounding Clementi or because they're simply curious, Lazes is optimistic that the campus will check out the Project Civility lectures, which he hopes will lead to lots of discussions and progress on the issue.

"This isn't something that's exclusive to Rutgers; this could have happened anywhere," he said. "This is a societal problem — bullying, cyberbullying — so I think that it is everyone's problem to address how we're interacting online and how we're treating one another in person as well."

Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, and his childhood friend, Molly Wei, 18, allegedly posted a live feed of Clementi on Skype last week, boasting about it on Twitter. "Roommate asked for the room till midnight," Ravi, 18, tweeted on September 19. "I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Ravi is also alleged to have tried to broadcast a second encounter a few days after the first.

Ravi and Wei have been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using "the camera to view and transmit a live image" of Clementi, which carry maximum sentences of five years. Ravi also was charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for trying to post a similar live feed on September 21, the day before Clementi's suicide.

While it is unknown if the posting of the video drove Clementi to commit suicide, and no one has come forward to discuss his sexual orientation, The New York Times reported that after the inaugural Civility program Wednesday night, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the student center chanting, "Civility without safety — over our queer bodies!"

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 a list of resources that include hotlines and testimonials offering hope for those who need it.