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Rutgers mourns freshman who committed suicide

Rutgers University students signed condolence cards yesterday for the family of Tyler Clementi, the freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Rutgers University students signed condolence cards yesterday for the family of Tyler Clementi, the freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)
By Geoff Mulvihill and Samantha Henry
Associated Press / October 2, 2010

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University students wore black yesterday to mourn a classmate who committed suicide, while a lawmaker proposed tougher penalties for invasion of privacy — the charge against the roommate accused of secretly streaming video of the victim’s sexual tryst with a man.

Calling it “Black Friday,’’ students at New Jersey’s largest university were encouraged to leave flowers or mementoes at a makeshift memorial for 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a freshman and promising violinist who jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River last week.

The Rutgers football team also planned a moment of silence before its game today against Tulane University.

About a dozen students from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity set up two tables yesterday about a half-mile from the dorms in neighboring Piscataway where, authorities say, Clementi’s roommate and another freshman surreptitiously captured his liaison.

Fraternity members urged students to wear black and collected bouquets, roses, or potted flowers from people who wanted to send condolences to Clementi’s family.

Rose Caro, a senior who was helping out with the tables, said Clementi’s death has “hit us all hard.’’ The college has a diverse and tolerant student population, she said, and she hoped people didn’t get an image of the campus as virulently homophobic.

“A lot of kids are just still immature,’’ she said. “I’m sure those kids had no idea what the end result would be, and they have to live with what happened for the rest of their lives.’’

The tables also offered a forum where people could write messages to Clementi’s family.

“To recognize this individual is not only to honor a life that was so needlessly lost, but to silently [or vocally] speak out against the flagrantly intolerant and ignorant mindset that facilitated this tragic event,’’ one message read.

The saga that unfolded this week at Rutgers has become a flashpoint for debate about the treatment of young gays and lesbians.

Shortly before Clementi died, a post appeared on a website catering to gay men that sought advice on what to do after learning that a roommate secretly filmed a tryst.

While it is impossible to be certain that that post and subsequent ones were made by Clementi, they mirror the same timeline as the alleged filming and reflect the anguish probably felt in such a situation.

The website Gawker first reported that someone started a discussion on a graphic gay-oriented website after realizing his roommate was “spying’’ on him with a webcam.

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