Since Suicide, More Resources for Transgender and Gay Students

Ann McClure's picture
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It has been two years since Tyler Clementi, a gay freshman at Rutgers University, committed suicide after learning that his roommate had ridiculed his sexuality and invited friends to spy on him and another man through a webcam. That terrible episode brought the school national attention, none of it welcome: previously known as a large and diverse state school, Rutgers became associated with homophobia and cruelty.

But today, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and their supporters can choose from four specialized housing options, three of them new, ranging from a service to pair them with like-minded roommates to Rainbow Perspectives, a floor in a residence hall organized around common interests. They can now turn for support to the 130 staff and faculty members who have been trained as official campus liaisons, or to the graduates of a new training program for “allies,” whose inaugural session is already booked to capacity. This year’s edition of a handbook that lists campus resources for “queer issues” is 92 pages long.

And this week, Campus Pride, an organization that rates schools based on the inclusiveness of their policies, upgraded Rutgers’s main campus in New Brunswick to the maximum rating, five stars. Out of the 32 possible categories in which a school can distinguish itself, Rutgers scored in 31.

Rutgers has a long history of inclusiveness; when the Rutgers Homophile League was founded in 1969, for example, it was only the second such student group in the nation. But since Mr. Clementi’s death on Sept. 22, 2010, the university has increased its efforts, propelled by a vocal campus community, an energetic administrator and an urgent need for damage control.

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