Rutgers Students Return with Ravi Case Decided

Sunday, March 18, 2012

As spring break ends, students will return to Rutgers University on Sunday — two days after a verdict in the trial of Dharun Ravi, a former Rutgers student who was accused of spying on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi's sexual encounter. Ravi was found guilty on all 15 criminal charges, including a conviction on hate crime charges. Clementi committed suicide in 2010, days after learning of the spying.

Rutgers issued a statement shortly after the verdict was announced on Friday saying this tragedy, “which will forever affect the lives of the families involved, deeply touched the Rutgers community and the world.” But officials say there are no other formal plans from the administration to communicate about the verdict, leaving it to students and academic departments to make sense of it themselves.

“The University has not provided a lot of guidance on this issue at all,” said Karen Cerulo, chair of the Sociology Department. She has led discussions of the case with her own students and said other departments are taking similar initiative.

Given the nature of the issues raised by the case — privacy, hate crimes, and the use of social media — Cerulo said studying what happened goes to the heart of the work she and her colleagues do.

“This is a teaching moment,” Cerulo said.

Rutgers University has made changes to its housing policies since Clementi’s death, including a pilot program where students can select a known roommate of any gender, as well as a roommate matching option for first-year and transfer students who are interested in being paired with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer roommate.

Last month, student leaders participated in a bystander intervention workshop. It is part of an on-going campaign, sponsored by the Office of the Dean, to provide members of the university community the tools to stand up to hate and report bias.


Comments [6]

Anh from CA

I have a hard time with the gay/lesbian community's vengeance and called for hate crimes. Don't get me wrong, I have gay/lesbian friends and they aren't any different than my "straight/mainstream" friends. As in this case, what Ravi did was wrong, but I do not think he should be punished for hate crimes. It is too bad that he is the victim of a murky law.

Mar. 19 2012 07:47 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

I'm troubled both by Ravi's actions and also by the severity of the punishment. We'll see what the sentence actually is.

Mar. 18 2012 01:42 PM
Judy Richheimer from Chelsea, New York City

Standing in opposition to most of my political cohort, that is, the left, I am flat-out against hate-crime legislation, which more accurately should be called thought-crime legislation. It represents the removal, and not the advancement, of equal protection under the law.

Imagine if Dharun Ravi's roommate were straight and, say, puritanical, or perhaps very unattractive, and famous around campus for his scruples or cosmetic shortfalls. And, as we would expect, a virgin. Then he meets a woman and, despite his principles or self-consciousness about his body, decides to pursue a physical relationship with her.

Ravi -- a young rat, that much is clear -- takes the same measures to taunt the hypothetical straight roommate as he did with the one who was real and gay. Shortly afterward the straight roommate takes his own life, and authorities and the world at large draw a direct line between the young man's suicide and his roommate's recent bullying campaign -- as they did in real life. (I am not even going to address that, the connection between Tyler Clementi's decision to do away with himself and Ravi's obnoxious behavior, was quite murky. Remember, upon learning that his roommate's cam was pointed in his direction, Clementi initially laughed off the matter. And that any number of conditions could have led to Clementi's complete sense of despair.)

Ravi would still have been charged with invasion of privacy and other related counts, but hate per se would not been among crimes, and therefore his ultimate punishment would be much lighter. So my question is: why would the life of the young prude or the young geek be worth less than that of the young gay?

I am aware that, for decades people in the categories defined as "protected" by hate-crime legislation were regarded by certain judges as less than human, and therefore their assailants were often let off the hook. Well, the remedy to this injustice is not more injustice; the remedy is to elect, or to pressure governors to appoint, good judges.

Mar. 18 2012 11:25 AM
Robert from NY

We do not know yet what the sentence will be, only the maximum possible. If Ravi was so "brilliant", why did he turn down a very lenient plea bargain that called for no jail time but for 600 hours of community service? You would think that any decent human being in his position would feel compelled to reach out and educate. And since when are 18 year old men "children?" If we agree that 18 year olds are capable of enlisting and serving in combat to protect us I would venture that they are also capable of accepting responsibility for immoral and illegal behavior.

Mar. 18 2012 07:56 AM

Does the punishment fit the crime? Are we okay with it because the perp is not Wonderbread American?
If it was the other way around, ask yourself: would anybody care?

Mar. 18 2012 04:30 AM
Judy Brauner from New Jersey

For anyone who has had adolescent children and understands the adolescent brain there has to be an understanding of what a double tragedy this is. That one young man's life was lost because his parents were unable to make it safe for him to feel that he was not 100% okay with them, and therefore ashamed of his natural proclivities, and for now another's life to be ruined because of a stupid homophobic gesture is beyond horrible. Dharun Ravi is not a criminal. Take yourself to hundreds of college campuses where young women are raped and slandered by boys who are never held accountable for these acts and NOTHING EVER happens, and contrast that with one stupid teenage moment where the physical harm that occurred was self-inflicted and sent the e-mail user to prison is unconscionable!!!!!

Yes, cyber bullying does need to stop, but to take the life of a young brilliant child by sending him to prison is not going to deter bullies any more than the death penalty has deterred murderers. Indeed, make the boy pay for his childlike and mean spirited crime..but have him pay in a way that helps communities by going out to lecture for 2-5 years, not by sending him to rot in a prison with thugs and hardened criminals.

Mar. 18 2012 12:41 AM

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