This piece was originally published in Rutger University’s The Daily Targum
The death of University student Tyler Clementi might have been properly mourned if it were not for the massive rallies and aggressive news coverage that altered the nature of the situation. The truth is that an 18-year-old boy killed himself—he was a student just like the rest of us, someone just trying to receive an education. Yet people’s relentless agendas took his death and turned it into a cause based on false pretenses.
A crowd of more than 20 people ended up lying outside the entrance of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus the first night of the news breaking. The chants were, "We’re here. We’re queer. We want safety in our homes." The mistake was that Clementi’s death should not have been turned into a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protest for gay rights and safe spaces at the University. Robert O’Brien, Department of Anthropology assistant instructor, led the rally as he chanted, "Not safe in dorms, not safe at Rutgers." Essentially, an angry mob fending for their rights turned the death of a young boy into a cause for "safe spaces" for gays across the University – all the while, these spaces already existed. We have groups across campus that deal with students’ psychological difficulties—17 Seconds is one that deals with suicides—as well as groups that address their sexual orientation. We have these spaces, and the University community is diverse enough to provide students with whatever it is they need.
The focal point of Clementi’s tragic death should have been a boy’s inability to deal with the hardships of life. And yet the news and certain organizations picked this up and carried it into the ranks of general causes for major social groups—for their profit. Did Tyler really feel unsafe after all? Do we know the reason behind his suicide? Do we know if he, himself, would take part in the movement behind his death—the push for safe spaces?
It is disappointing that everyone from news to celebrities picked up the story. Actress Brittany Snow and actor Neil Patrick-Harris are just two of the many celebrities belittling Clementi’s death—forcing his remembrance into a cause rather than a proper mourning.
We did not know Tyler. It was barely three weeks into his first year at the University, and most of his neighbors in his residence hall barely knew him. Turning his death into a push for gay rights is a fallacy. Homosexuality is not the only reason for which people kill themselves. In this case, it might have pushed Clementi over the edge, but the fact that he was gay should by no means turn his death into a march for safe spaces. These groups want to be heard. They want the attention. They want their agendas to shine in the limelight.
Instead, we should address that the signs of a suicidal 18-year-old kid were unseen and went unnoticed, not "We want safety in our homes." We have the safety, or as much of it as we together as a University community can in today’s world. What we need is to notice those of us who need help and help them. Entertainers stay away. O’Brien leave the issue alone. Let us—family, friends and the University together—mourn for Clementi, and just for him, rather than using him as a martyr for a cause that has yet to be proven.