Sunday, October 31, 2010

Change in an RA program

I recently spent an evening talking about all of the recent homophobia-bullying triggered suicides to a friend of mine from Rutgers. My friend is an RA in one of the Rutgers dorms, and she painted a picture for me that hasn't made it into the news.

Tyler Clementi went to an RA for help before he killed himself. While the RA took his situation seriously, and the University had rules in place against invasions of privacy that should have resulted in the expulsion of his filmers, nothing had yet been done about the situation when he decided to take his life. The RA he spoke to hadn't had any idea that he was on the verge of suicide.

The world has seen how the Rutgers community rallied in support of Tyler's family, holding candl-lit vigils in his memory. What they have not seen are the shock waves that have reverberated through the Residence Assistant program. As a group, they are beating themselves up over this. As a group, they feel that they failed him. They blame themselves for his death even more than they blame Ravi.

It will take a long time for the program to recover from the emotional aftermath of this tragedy, but in the healing are springing up seeds of hope. The residence assistance program has a strengthened resolve to be advocates for the victims of harassment. They have a very immediate motivation to make sure that they never, ever overlook the signs of depression and despair in a student. The aims of the program are changing for the good as they are trying to do everything in their power to make sure nothing like this every happens again. Ever.

It was good to hear, from someone on the inside, that Tyler will never be forgotten. It was good to hear that his death has finally sparked the changes that have been desperately needed to protect LGBTQ students from harassment and abuse. It's good to hear that something good will come of this horrible tragedy.

But damn it, what the hell is wrong with us, as a culture, that kids need to DIE before changes are made to protect them?

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