After the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, his parents considered suing the school. Today, two years after his tragic end, Jane and Joe Clementi are unveiling the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers.
“This center will embody our shared commitment to breaking new ground to study the rapidly changing world our young adults live in,” the Clementi family said, “ in order to lend support, especially as they transition into adulthood. 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 Center is a collaborative effort between Rutgers University and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and it will hold conferences and sponsor academic research on students making the transition from home to college. According to the Clementis and university officials, the center will not only examine not bullying and youth suicides, but also topics like how young people use, and abuse, new technologies.
“Tyler’s death deeply touched the Rutgers community and brought the issues of cyber-bullying 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 goal of the center is also to provide scholarly support for the work of policymakers, social activists, community leaders, and other advocates for vulnerable youth.
At one point, information came to light that seemed to show that Tyler felt rejected by his mother. In his heartfelt "Letters to My Brother," James Clementi, Tyler's older gay brother, also expressed his regret for not helping his brother and the strangeness of his name and image appearing on magazines and what that meant.
"So the other day I was at Barnes & Noble, trying to find a book to read since I have a lot of free time now that I can’t sleep, can’t hold a job, don’t want to be around friends or family, and pretty much need to escape my life. Anyway, I was browsing at the newsstand and I saw you. I always do. This time you were staring back at me from the cover of People. I keep thinking that I’ll look up and see you for real, the way you should be, but it’s always more reminders of the way you are. I’m sure the other customers found my anxiety attack entertaining. How am I supposed to respond to seeing you on People, though? It’s a lot to digest, you being a celebrity and all. I always knew you would make it big; I just thought you’d be around to enjoy it.
"I wonder what you would think, seeing all the commotion you’ve caused. It is surreal and meaningless to see you as a mere story on The New York Times, a brief glimpse at a life with none of the detail. You were a typical college freshman, trying to adjust to a dorm room, make some friends, meet a cute guy, and enjoy your independence, and no one noticed. The headlines tell of how you were violated and ridiculed; your last moments are a cautionary tale, a scandal, something to sell and entertain."
Since then, he's begun work with the Tyler Clementi Foundation.