When I read the story of homophobic bullying against a Siena College basketball player on March 7, I was disappointed but, sadly, not surprised. I know very personally the impact that this kind of bullying can have. My son Tyler Clementi was a freshman at another New Jersey university when he was the target of cyberbullying because he was gay. He was humiliated and crushed and a few days after he was bullied, he died by suicide.
Monmouth University’s president condemned this behavior and promised an investigation into the incident, which is a good start, but does their school have policies that include behavior modification and even more importantly do they have policies that will prevent these incidents from happening again in the future? What are colleges and universities doing to combat and prevent this behavior and further harm? Universities must show all their students that they care about their rights, feelings, and wellbeing enough to prevent bullying before it happens.
We must be proactive, not just reactive. To stop instances like the one at Monmouth University — and like that one that resulted in the death of my son — we must ensure that all students have the right to a positive educational experience in a safe environment without risk of harassment, bullying or humiliation. A good start would be for Congress to pass the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which would require institutions to prohibit the kind of harassment that happened this past weekend and enact real, effective prevention programs. College students and their parents deserve action and prevention.
CoFounder and CEO
Tyler Clementi Foundation