There was a tragic suicide at Rutgers University recently as a student, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from a bridge after his roommate secretly filmed him having gay sex and transmitted the movie via internet:
"Roommate asked for the room till midnight," Ravi wrote on Twitter that night. "I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
Authorities say Ravi streamed the action on the Web to friends - an illegal video transmission.
Two days later, in another Twitter post, Ravi indicated he had plans for a sequel.
"Yes, it's happening again," he wrote, inviting people to watch between 9:30 p.m. and midnight. The second streaming attempt failed, authorities said.
When Clementi learned of the vile voyeurism, he couldn't handle it and methodically planned his own death.
The roommate and the friend who helped transmit the video are facing privacy violation charges and could be imprisoned for up to five years.
This early in the investigation, I would caution against drawing too many conclusions here and labeling this an anti-gay death-by-bullying just yet. Was his suicide caused just by the violation of privacy, or was there other stuff going on in his life? The suicide rate on college campuses is higher than for the population generally, and the transition from home life to college life can lead to depression. A neighbor mentioned that he "kept to himself" on campus; the social isolation that can come with the transition to a new environment may have had an impact here.
Was his roommate motivated by anti-gay animus, or something like immaturity or voyeurism? A commenter on The Advocate who identified himself as a Rutgers graduate says that this is a common prank on that campus, taping roommates having sex. I don't remember that at all from college, but maybe this is Rutgers's thing. Or maybe he just didn't like having to give up his room.
And what did the school do or not do to address these privacy issues? Were they talking with students about this? Do they have clearly stated rules? I wonder because people don't just get the idea to broadcast someone else having sex, especially people who may be in a position to have their privacy violated one day as well.
Just, caution. This suicide, like all suicides, is tragic, and we should attempt to do what we can to prevent another. But it's too early to know what the right lessons to learn are.