Two Years After a Suicide, Rutgers Starts New Center

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February 6, 2013 4:35 PM EST

More than two years ago, the suicide of a gay young man studying at Rutgers University in New Jersey led to a national debate on cyber-bullying after it was revealed that the suicide was likely because of a roommate spying on the victim's love life. Now Rutgers is starting a center in the victim's name to address issues that confront youth when they make the transition from home to college life.

Rutgers University administrators and student leaders joined with the Clementi family, representatives of the Clementi Foundation and elected officials today to announce creation of the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers, which will open in New Brunswick, with a seed money of around $200,000-$300,000.

The collaboration between Rutgers and the Clementi Foundation will draw from academic disciplines across the university and throughout the nation to create new programs and approaches to address issues that confront young people - specifically vulnerable youth making the transition from home to college.

"This center will embody our shared commitment to breaking new ground to study the rapidly changing world our young adults live in and to lend them support, especially as they transition into adulthood," the Clementi family said in a statement. "We commend Rutgers for its commitment - unique in higher education - and we are grateful to have the center named in memory of our son."

Tyler Clementi was a freshman when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010. In the days before his death, Clementi had learned his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had used a webcam to watch him in in intimacy with another man in their dorm room. Ravi sent Twitter messages, and later attempted to captute another encounter of Clementi with his lover.

Ravi, of Plainsboro, NJ, was found guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and other charges last year and served less than a month in county jail. Both Ravi and prosecutors have appealed the case, which drew international attention.

"Tyler's death deeply touched the Rutgers community and brought the issues of cyberbullying and the suicide of gay youth to the attention of the world," said Richard L. Edwards, Rutgers University executive vice president for academic affairs. "Rutgers has a history of being responsive to the needs of our LGBTQ community, as well as offering forward-thinking scholarly work to impact broader cultural change. It was our sincere wish to work with the Clementi family to turn this tragedy into an effort that would help young people not only at Rutgers but beyond."

The center will offer lectures, symposia and training on such topics as the use and misuse of new technologies and social media; youth suicide - particularly among LGBTQ youth and other young people - during the transition to adulthood; adjustment and assimilation into college life; bullying and cyberbullying; and understanding and promoting safe and inclusive social environments.

Under the leadership of Jeff Longhofer, Rutgers associate professor of social work, the goal of the Tyler Clementi Center is to provide scholarly support for the work of policymakers, social activists, community leaders and other advocates for vulnerable youth.

The center also aims to develop new programs and policies to assist first-year students and high school seniors in adjusting to college life that may be used as models for institutions of higher education throughout the country.

Established in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is America's eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation's premier public research universities. Serving nearly 60,000 students on campuses in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick, Rutgers is one of only two New Jersey institutions represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities. (GIN - AmericanBazaarOnline.com

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