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Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself – A Message From A Rutgers Phi Following The Death of Fellow Student, Tyler Clementi


By Logan Gray – VP of New Jersey Alpha at Rutgers

Amanda Brown/The Star-Ledger – Josh Lesser, a junior, (center) joined his fraternity brothers from Phi Delta Theta in setting up a memorial to Tyler Clementi at Brower Commons on the College Ave. campus of Rutgers-New Brunswick. Students were invited to write their condolences to Clementi’s family.

At Rutgers University, Phi Delta Theta is the most diverse fraternity on campus. Representing many different walks of life culturally and demographically, we place a high priority on the promotion of both tolerance and respect. Not only do we promote these ideals, but the experience that is gained from the exchange of beliefs is at the foundation of what it means to be a Rutgers Phi Delt.

When the bothers of Phi Delta Theta NJ Alpha learned of what had happened to one of our fellow Rutgers students, Tyler Clementi, we were both devastated at the loss for the University community as well as alarmed at the flagrant intolerance of the acts that lead to the incident. Since the event, there has been some question over just how serious these acts were. Without a doubt, the reckless actions of Dharan Ravi and Molly Wei weighed heavily on Tyler’s psyche; the “extent” to which their actions influenced Tyler is irrelevant. It’s debatable whether or not this was actually a “hate crime;” but the fact that it was an extreme case of privacy invasion is non-debatable. Removing from consideration the peripheral disputes over the incident, the lesson to be learned is how catastrophic consequences can result from an intolerant or ignorant attitude coupled with irresponsible behavior. This lesson is relevant at the individual level, such as interaction between roommates; but is also applicable to all facets of human interaction, including war declarations over cultural differences.

What happened to Tyler Clementi is but an example of the epidemic of intolerance that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. The only way to rectify the damage throughout history that intolerance has caused is to make a conscious decision to understand the beliefs and lifestyle of others rather than to reject or exploit them. When understanding is impossible, simple acceptance of differences is equally productive. Fighting to the death or maliciously exploiting differences is never going to bridge gaps, but will absolutely broaden them.

Moral rectitude is at the basis of what it means to be a Phi Delt. The practice of this ideal is impossible without understanding, appreciating and living the concepts of tolerance and mutual respect. I’m sure Dharan and Molly never imagined the level of psychological instability that existed within Tyler. But, who ever does know exactly what’s going on in someone else’s head? No one ever knows how one’s actions will affect another and to what degree- especially malicious actions. We will get nowhere as a society by exploiting ideals that we do not fully agree with or understand. The only way that harmony will ever be achieved is through respecting different perspectives and supporting cultural and philosophical diversity. The most pain caused by peacefully conceding to a differing belief results from biting one’s lip. The most destruction caused by even the smallest gesture of intolerance is death.

I, Logan Gray, Vice President of New Jersey Alpha, hope that all Phi Delts will take to heart the moral implications that surround the death of Tyler Clementi. Whether you agree with his lifestyle or not, we should all respect him as a fellow man and acknowledge the contributions that he made to our society. We should respect the emotion devastation that the situation causes for Tyler’s family and close friends. And above all, we should continue to live our lives as respectable men of an honorable organization that promotes the very ideals that will drive humanity in a positive direction.

8 thoughts on “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself – A Message From A Rutgers Phi Following The Death of Fellow Student, Tyler Clementi

  1. As a brother from the Mo Theta chapter I would just like to say I am very proud to be a brother and respect the class shown in this post tremendously. Thank you for such a great read.

  2. As a Brother of OH Theta, as well as a member of the LGBT community, I am very proud and thankful of the response of NJ Alpha. The momorial which they had set up is a glowing example of what it means to be a Phi in a time of need and distress on a campus.

  3. Very well written and it hits the core of so many problems we see in our society. Simple acceptance can cure so many social ills

    As Chaplain of MO Eta I plan on sharing this with our chapter at our next meeting

  4. What happened to Tyler Clementi is sad, pointless, and devesating to his family and friends. To the rest of the world it has served as an easy storyline to further their social or political agenda. The sad FACT is Tyler Clemnti committed suicide from the shame and humiliation he felt towards himself for being gay. He did not kill himself to get even with anyone. He killed himself because his roomate remotely turned on his web cam and boad cast Tyler in bed with another man. How different would this story be if the other man had been a woman ? How many people would be sermonizing Tylers death had he committed suicide because he was filmed in bed with a woman? My guess is only his family and close friends. The sad FACT is this young man would be alive if he had not chosen to kill himself. His roomate will live forever with the question of how much his actions influenced this decision, but ultimately normal mentally stable individuals do jump off bridges out of embarassment.

  5. Thank you for your well-written and thought provoking letter. If your words can help one closed-minded person to evaluate their beliefs and step away with a higher tolerance, then you made a difference.

  6. “What happened to Tyler Clementi is but an example of the epidemic of intolerance that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. The only way to rectify the damage throughout history that intolerance has caused is to make a conscious decision to understand the beliefs and lifestyle of others rather than to reject or exploit them. When understanding is impossible, simple acceptance of differences is equally productive.”

    So, you accept the the behavior of Ravi?

    Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance. Let’s be tolerant of everything, except intolerance. Everything’s relative. No one is wrong, no one is right. For those who couldn’t tell, that was soaked with sarcasm.

    I can condemn Ravi’s actions, not because I’m “tolerant” of Clementi’s lifestyle, but because what he did was not, as the title of this blog suggests “loving thy neighbor.” Loving thy neighbor has nothing to do with tolerance, but everything to do with love. You do not have to tolerate your neighbor’s actions–and you can love him yet rebuke him at the same time. There is nothing wrong with opposing Clementi’s lifestyle, we all have the right to do it, and it does not mean we don’t love him. I’m sure at least one person reading this has a friend or family member who lives a lifestyle that you don’t approve of (drugs, alcohol abuse, etc.). The answer isn’t “tolerating” their lifestyle or accepting it. It’s coming to them in love to try to resolve the issue.

    Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, the problem here isn’t intolerance, it’s a lack of love. Tolerance most definitely does not equal love. In that way, the title to this post could not be more misleading.

    I’m reminded of a quote by the author Mark Steyn: “The great advantage of cultural relativism is that it absolves you of the need to know anything. For if everything’s of equal value, why bother learning about any of the differences?”

  7. Wade-

    Yes, if Tyler were with a woman in that video- things would be drastically different….this WHOLE thing probably wouldn’t have even happened in the first place. But that’s not what happened- so who cares? The fact that Tyler was hooking up with a male coupled with society’s general opinion that such an act is abnormal, to say the least, is what motivated Ravi to videotape, exploit, and poke fun at the act. So, I don’t see the significance of speculating the level of attention this would have gotten had the act been heterosexual. It’s the same reasoning to say in Aug 2005 “I don’t get why New Orleans is getting to much attention…no one would care about New Orleans if a hurricane didn’t demolish it.” Right….that’s probably true. But, again, that’s not what happened- so who cares about that alternative reality?

    The general lack of tolerance that exists in our society facilitated Tyler’s feelings of “embarrassment” of being gay. He wasn’t just born embarrassed of this- others, including Ravi, made him feel this way. The fact that his “controversial” lifestyle was then exploited the way it was only exacerbated those feelings of embarrassment. If our society were more tolerant in general and just accepted different lifestyles (not even just gay ones) rather than felt the need to exploit them- a lot of tragedies would be averted- including this one. Mutual respect is the only agenda that this and all other tragic events that occur due to an ignorant or intolerant act should promote. The moral implications of this tragedy is not limited to the LGBT community nor does it necessarily promote only THEIR “social or political agenda.” To make statements like that is very shortsighted.

    This event is but one example of the destructive consequences of general intolerance on the WORLD community. The Crusades were fought over cultural/philosophical differences, Africans/Jews/many other minorities have been enslaved and murdered over racial differences, and here- Tyler was a victim of society’s general intolerance of homosexuality. The pressure placed on him by homophobic attitude and language that exists throughout our culture obviously weighed very heavily on him. Ravi probably just lit the fuse behind the mountain of homophobic TNT that built up in Tyler’s head over time.

    It’s true that Tyler had psychological instabilities- but that “fact” is also irrelevant in this situation. Even if Tyler had not chosen to kill himself- the sheer and blatant lack of respect that Ravi had for Tyler’s lifestyle is the issue.

    The message that I hope people gain from this is to absolutely be proud of what you believe in and speak your mind- but to also respect the views of others and treat them with the same level of tolerance/acceptance that you expect from them. Exploiting or ridiculing any differences- cultural, sexual, racial, religious, ethnic, etc- is NEVER productive and is always destructive.

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