MU forum reacts to Rutgers tragedy

Students and staff attending the forum encouraged cyberbullying-based revisions to the MU Code of Conduct.
LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Ryan Black discusses the damage of using derogatory expressions in daily conversation Thursday at the Gaines/ Oldham Black Culture Center. He spoke as part of a panel addressing a recent suicide due to homophobic bullying at Rutgers University.

When junior Brett Dinkins heard about the recent tragedy at Rutgers University, in which a student jumped off the George Washington Bridge as a result of public embarrassment, he immediately thought of the freshmen he deals with on a daily basis working in Residential Life, he said.

“It scares me that it could happen here,” said Dinkins, who serves as MU College Republicans chairman.

The Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, was filmed having sexual relations with another male student, and Clementi’s roommate and a female friend started streaming the video online. Clementi killed himself three days after the video was released on the Internet, but not before making his Facebook status, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

This suicide prompted Dinkins, along with sophomore Stacy Ike, to organize a forum for students to voice their opinions and questions.

The forum Thursday night included a panel of staff from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Resource Center, the Political Science Department, the Women and Gender Studies Program, Men Against Relationship and Sexual Violence and the Office of Student Conduct.

LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Ryan Black said when he read about Clementi, the first thing he thought was whether something like this could happen at MU.

“We have a resource center and support groups on campus,” Black said. “But when I researched Rutgers, they had a resource center and they had support groups. This one incident wasn’t what caused Tyler’s death. This was one of many.”

A hot topic of discussion in the forum focused on what actions would be taken if something like this happened on campus. Donell Young, senior coordinator of the Office of Student Conduct, said the office could turn this horrible situation into a positive situation by changing the Code of Conduct.

Young said the Code of Conduct needs to be more progressive and relevant to the times, hopefully by including a code related to cyberbullying. Greg Casey, a faculty member in the Department of Political Science, explained the legal repercussions of this invasion of privacy.

Casey said the law in New Jersey only allows the family to sue the perpetrators for $1,000 for each act they commit. If the students were prosecuted for invasion of privacy, they would be subject to a maximum fine of $30,000. But many in attendance disagreed with this topic, saying the focus should not be on what MU would do if this event happened, but rather on how to prevent it from happening.

Marilyn Preston, a representative from the Women and Gender Studies Department, expressed her frustration concerning the discussion.

“We are talking about the legal matters and what would happen to the people who committed the crime,” Preston said. “We should talk about how to prevent it from happening. It’s more important to talk about how we would change it.”

Preston also brought up commonly used terminology and how to prevent student from phrases that use derogatory language.

“When you say something is gay, what the fuck are you trying to say?” Preston asked.

Graduate student Jimmie Jones works with MARS and said he hopes males across campus will stand up to prevent an event like this from happening.

“I’m trying to spread that, not to be the type of guy that goes with the crowd,” Jones said. “People can shake their heads and agree all they want, but it’s really what your actions show.”

Dinkins said he would consider the discussion a success if it helped students to realize the resources available to them. Ike said she hoped students would become more aware of the environment they are in and the environment they create while on campus.

“You have to learn to accept everybody because everybody deserves to be comfortable,” Ike said.

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