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And yet, is Ravi really responsible for Clementi’s suicide? Legally, the only relevance of the suicide is whether it shows Clementi felt harassed for being gay. In reality, the suicide haunts everything; otherwise this would be a matter for the Rutgers resident advisers.
The problem is that justice is individual, whereas symbols are collective. Of course, judges “send a message” to would-be criminals all the time by disproportionately punishing the ones who get caught. But there’s a difference between sending a message and scapegoating. Whatever was going through Ravi’s head is no different from what millions of other 18-year-olds think, and feel, all the time—including, every jock I went to high school with. Those attitudes are indeed reprehensible. But Ravi is the one whose life now hangs in the balance, a scapegoat for all of us.
Ravi faces charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and hindering apprehension. Prosecutors say he watched his roommate, Tyler Clementi, during an intimate moment with another man and wanted to expose Clementi as gay and intimidate him.
Several other people were in the room on Rutgers’ Busch campus when an incident of alleged spying occurred, including Cassandra Cicco, who lived across the hall from Ravi and Clementi. She shared a room with Molly Wei, who was also arrested in September 2010 but was admitted into a pre-trial probationary program in return for testifying against Ravi.
Cicco was in the room when Ravi, Wei and others allegedly activated a webcam in Ravi’s room from Wei’s computer across the hall, which showed them what was going on in Ravi’s room, where Clementi had a guest over.
“it came up for a split second, it was a quick video, we saw two males leaning against the bed making out,” Cicco said.
“We were all just like, ‘Oh okay, that happened,’ and that was the end of it,” Cicco said.
Clementi’s 2010 death sparked a nationwide anti-bullying movement (the “It Gets Better” movement), whose impact is felt to this day.
If you haven’t read the New Yorker’s feature on the subject, we’d recommend you get to that this weekend.
Jessica Bennett looks back at the students charged in connection with the suicide of 15-year-old South Hadley High School student Phoebe Prince. Schoolyard bullying can have tragic consequences, she writes. But should it be a crime?