Rutgers University gets 5 out of 5 stars in the Campus Pride Index’s rating of campus life for LGBTQ people. The Index, which aims to help institutions of higher learning improve LGBTQ campus life and create a more welcoming, inclusive experience for LGBTQ people and allies, scores campuses on both a ‘Sexual Orientation Score’ and a ‘Gender Identity/Expression Score.’ Rutgers gets high stars and check marks in a long list of categories. Here’s how Rutgers earned their top rating (scroll down from there). Congratulations; we hope it’s well-earned.
It’s impossible not to think of Tyler Clementi in any review of life at Rutgers for gay students. September 22 is 6-year anniversary of the suicide of 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi, who leapt off the George Washington Bridge after two fellow students turned a webcam in his room into a spycam to transmit a private moment between Clementi and another man. Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s roommate, and his friend Molly Wei used Ravi’s laptop webcam to watch a private romantic encounter between Clementi and another man, then urged his friends to gather to watch another tryst in their dorm room between Clementi and the same man (that viewing never happened). Clementi committed suicide about 24 hours later, after monitoring Ravi’s Twitter feed. Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail (he served only 20), 3 years probation, 300 hours community service, a $10,000 fine, and counseling on “cyberbullying and alternate lifestyles.” Six months ago, Ravi asked the court to overturn his convictions. Molly Wei was initially charged with Ravi but took a deal and entered a pre-trial intervention program to avoid jail time and a criminal record. They both left Rutgers. Passage of the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act came swiftly after Clementi’s death.
The Clementi story is now the subject of a musical – “Poster Boy” by Tony Award nominee Craig Carnelia and Joe Tracz. Poster Boy had its premier this summer at the Williamstown Theater Festival – with a New York run for the piece being planned, The piece deals with Clementi’s outing, Ravi’s treachery, and the gay web forum Clementi was part of, whose members realized that the sensational suicide story involved one of their own. The musical is based on 400 pages of documents, including transcripts of online chats between Clementi and his roomate.
Congratulations to Rutgers. I hope it really does mean a friendlier, inclusive and more respectful campus life for all its students.