The suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, shocked people across the nation, and the Quinnipiac campus wasn’t immune. To begin the healing process, sophomores Mattison Skoog and Samantha Richards campaigned for a university-wide day of silence in remembrance of Clementi, which was held on Nov. 2.
Skoog and Richards decided to plan the event when their roommate, Alyssa Padovani, found out about Clementi’s death. Padovani attended Ridgewood High School with Clementi in Ridgewood, N.J., and played in the orchestra with him.
Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death after he found out his sexual encounters with another man were being videotaped and streamed online by his roommate.
“The hate that caused this tragedy to happen is completely pointless,” Skoog said. “It never made sense to me. What could possibly be so wrong with two people loving each other no matter who they are? It all comes down to love. Different race, different religion, different gender, different economic situation, those with disabilities…love is love, so how could someone hate another person based on who they love? It’s important for QU to come together to show our support for the Rutgers Community, the Clementi Family, and our own GLT community.”
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Seventeen student organizations on campus co-sponsored the day-long event. T-shirts and rainbow wristbands saying “It Gets Better” provided by Students in Free Enterprise were sold silently throughout the day in the Student Center to raise money for The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that provides an around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline.
“We first started wanting to use the ‘It Gets Better’ slogan,” Skoog said. “I e-mailed Dan Savage, who started the It Gets Better Project … He said ‘yes, you have permission to use this, but all we have is a Youtube account and an email address, no employees, no expenses or donations, so please send your donations to The Trevor Project.”
The Day of Silence concluded with a gathering in the Echlin Center at 9:15 p.m., filling the room beyond seating capacity. Prof. Timothy Dansdill opened up the presentation discussing the fears many people have of those with different characteristics than their own, or as he put it, “the other.”
“I’m just here tonight to say that, from Tyler Clementi … who was just a refined young man, who knew music in a classical sense that none of us or very few of us here could barely understand … was simply seeking solace in his lover,” Dansdill said. “The people that he trusted in broke that trust.”
Dansdill is an associate professor of English, and also serves as the QU101 Seminar Coordinator. He said his class discourse had included Clementi’s death, and related it to “The Laramie Project,” a play read throughout the QU101 curriculum. The play portrays the reactions to the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and robbed before being tied to a fence. Witnesses at that trial indicated Shepard was attacked for being homosexual.
“Why in God’s name, and I’m an atheist, would someone decide that [someone’s privacy] was a joke?” Dansdill said. “It has to be this notion of the other, how we fear the other at some level … sexually, ethnically, you get the idea.”
The presentation concluded with the viewing of “It Gets Better” videos aimed at encouraging anti-suicide inspiration. The celebrities in these videos included President Barack Obama, Ke$ha, Zachary Quinto, and “Modern Family” stars Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.
Photo credit: Vanessa Stier