Tyler Clementi was a young gay man, a violinist and student at Rutgers University, when high school friends and fellow Rutgers students Molly Wei and Dharun Ravi used a webcam to record his physical encounter with another man (which was apparently just kissing), and invited others to view the broadcast as a means to publicly humiliate him. You can read the full story here.
When Tyler found out about what they had done, he was so distraught that he committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. His death, along with that of several other young men who had been bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay, prompted Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, to initiate the It Gets Better Project, which now has thousands of videos of men and women encouraging young LGBT people to remain strong - and stay alive - in the face of bullying.
Wei and Ravi were both indicted on charges, and rightfully so. In particular, Ravi has been charged with hate crimes, because he intentionally targeted Tyler because he was gay. Earlier this month, Wei struck a deal to avoid prison time, and will testify against Ravi:
Ms. Wei was admitted to a pretrial-intervention program, in which she must perform 300 hours of community service over the next three years, testify at any proceedings, participate in counseling to deter cyberbullying and cooperate with the authorities. If she complies, the charges against her will be dropped.
Her attorneys - as to be expected - say that she is not a bully, and that she simply allowed Ravi to use her computer to remotely activate the webcam in the room that Ravi and Tyler shared.
But the fact is that when she did so, she became an accomplice to Ravi's plan to invade Tyler's privacy and bully him. She could have said: "Stop, this isn't right." But she didn't, because she thought it was fun. And now Tyler's dead. And her reputation is mud. And for the rest of her life, long after Ravi's trial is over, and long after the name of Tyler Clementi may have slipped from people's minds, she will still be that girl who couldn't see past her own selfishness and played a role in someone else's death. And, thanks to the WWW, potential schools, employers and spouses are going to be able to read about her role in this for what I imagine will be the rest of her life.
Did she drive Tyler to the bridge? No. Did she actively tell him to kill himself? No. But she didn't have to. She allowed herself and Ravi to prey on Tyler's fears of exclusion and ridicule, and that was enough - quite literally - to push him over the edge.
Tyler's family, who knew he was gay, was far more forgiving than I would have been in the same situation:
"Actions have consequences," the Clementi family said in the statement. "We wish Ms. Wei will become a person who will make better decisions, will help people and show kindness to those she comes in contact with."I only wish she had become that person much, much earlier.
Ravi appears in court on May 23.