It was previously reported on Gawker that before committing suicide, Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi sought advice about his webcam-spying roommate on the gay message board JustUsBoys.com. Today the tabloids report that Clementi also turned to Yahoo! Answers for help. It's a sad read:
Should I just go ot my RA...and then she'll talk to us and be like "all better?" and basically be back to square one...idk...I'm just not a great self advocate and am afraid that if I go to the wrong party, I won't get the help I need... the other thing is....he never tried to record anythin (to my knoweledge) sooo idk...feel like its a sort of a grey area....
thanks, i get what you're saying i guess I'm just afraid I don't have enuff stuff to go on, i mean I really don't think he saw anything pornographic, but maybe he was trying too...idk...and I'm just worried about things becoming a huge mess after this cuz i mean, someone reports you and then you might have to spend the rest of the semester living with them anyway because of stupid administration and then there's the chance I could get a new roommate that's even worse....idk...I guess i just need to think about it...talking to the RA seems like a good idea now tho...
Clementi's posts on the gay message board and on Yahoo don't seem like the anguished cry for help one might expect from a young man on the brink suicide, but that just underscores how deceptive one's online presence can be. At least the Yahoo advice is sensible: "Report him. What he is doing is completely inappropriate. Also put some black electrical tape over the webcam when you aren't using it." This is what Clementi did, after seeing his roommate's Twitter post about streaming his next intimate encounter on iChat, and seeing the webcam pointed at his bed. But a day after reporting the incident, he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.
On the Rutgers campus, a debate rages about how culpable Clementi's roommate Dharun Ravi really is. Ravi's friends say he didn't intend to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter when he first turned on the webcam remotely from his friend Molly Wei's room. Both students face up to five years in prison. Wei's friends have started a Facebook page defending her, claiming that "Molly is being wrongfully accused of conspiring in this crime. Molly did not assist Dharun in setting up the webcam. Dharun set up the webcam in his room on his own accord. He then asked Molly if he could use her computer. She did not know what he was intending to do with her computer until he had already started streaming the video with her computer." And junior Nicolette Cobbold tells CBS 2, "They’re definitely not responsible for him committing suicide because that was his own choice."
On the other side of the debate, at least one gay rights group is calling on prosecutors to upgrade the charges against the students. Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and Rutgers Police Chief Rhonda Harris said yesterday, "We will be making every effort to assess whether [anti-gay] bias played a role in the incident, and if so, we will bring appropriate charges." The Times reports that demonstrators for gay rights "got into a screaming match with residents of Mr. Ravi’s dormitory, Davidson Hall, who objected to some of their language. Several students had to be physically separated." Gay and lesbian students are calling on the university to "re-examine its policies on bias and bullying."
And yesterday New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Clementi's death an "unspeakable tragedy... I don't know how those two folks are going to sleep at night, knowing that they contributed to driving that young man to that alternative."