Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Are we forgetting decency?

College is an integral part of growing up. Not only is it the place where we all further our studies and knowledge, getting ready for the real world, but it’s also the start of a new, more independent life. It’s an exploration of youth and developing experience. It can often be a difficult journey into one’s self and relationships. It’s the four (or more) years that we have the right to have completely to ourselves.

On Sep. 19, Tyler Clementi was stripped of that opportunity.

As most, if not all, of you have heard, the 18-year-old freshman jumped off the George Washington Bridge Sep. 22, three days after a video of an intimate encounter between Clementi and another man was posted on the Internet by his roommate, Dharun Ravi.

Before streaming the video, Ravi posted a Twitter message saying, “Roommate asked for the room until midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

How was that any of his business? The intimate details of a person’s life, relationships and interactions are intimate. They’re personal and private and anyone who doesn’t know that should pick up a dictionary.

It’s not fair that one person can decide to ruin another’s life by violating the right to privacy and the freedom to be yourself. Even if Clementi had not taken his own life as an outcome of the incident, this would have still been way past a simple teenage prank.

On every level, this is a hate crime. Bullying has claimed the lives of thousands of children throughout the years.

Suicide is not the answer. I’ve been told it my entire life; I’ve said it my entire life, and I really do believe it. But honestly how much can a person, a child, take before believing that breaking is, in fact, the only way out.

These are not new issues. I’ve mentioned Eric Mohat, Phoebe Prince and Megan Meier before. All were victims of persistent harassment and each of them is gone.

Last month, a Florida father was arrested for storming his daughter’s school bus and threatening the bullies who were tormenting her on a daily basis. He was charged with two misdemeanors and publicly apologized for his actions.

Maybe he was a little over the top, taking matters into his own hands without first attempting to deal with it through the school. While I don’t condone the vigilante actions, we’ve all seen what schools do to take care of things like this. We all know that slaps on the wrist do nothing, if not make everything worse.

Quite honestly, I don’t blame the man for getting so upset when his daughter, who has cerebral palsy, cried as the bus pulled up, finally informing him that she was being physically and emotionally harassed.

Despite everything, though, I doubt these boys, throwing condoms on her head, slapping her face, spitting in her hair and calling her names, have learned anything about what their damaging actions were doing. It was all in good fun for them.

What makes someone feel like they have the right to inform others that they’re living their lives wrong? Or makes them assume that they have the right to make a laughing stock out of someone else’s life?

A budding musician, Clementi was liked by those who knew him. He kept to himself and never harmed a fellow student. No one deserves or asks for treatment like that, but Clementi didn’t even mildly provoke it.

Saying it’s not fair really is an understatement. Still it keeps running through my mind every time the body count rises and people say “Oh what a shame. Better luck next time.” There has to be a way out of this cycle. Candlelight vigils and memorials are all well and good, but action always will speak louder than words.

Clementi’s suicide coincided with Rutgers’ long-planned launching of “Project Civility,” which is a campaign involving panel discussions, workshops and other events promoting the importance of courtesy and compassion within everyday interactions.

I respect that, but we need more. That kind of campaign needs to be seen at universities across the country while different variations need to be sponsored in high schools and elementary schools.

We can’t forget decency. It’s a part of society that makes us stronger because we work together stronger. And if we take that for granted, if we let it go completely, then what does that make us?

Debra Flax is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column runs Wednesdays.

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