Two months ago, I wrote an article for PolicyMic explaining why Dharun Ravi (whose actions as an 18-year-old college freshman indirectly led to the suicide of his roommate Tyler Clementi,) had acted immaturely but did not deserve a multi-year jail sentence. Though soon after my piece was published a jury found Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest, today, Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Ravi to 30 days in prison: a sentence that I believe is fair for the crimes that Ravi committed.
This case sets an important precedent: bullying should not be tolerated, but the American justice system is reasonable and provides punishments in accordance with convictions.
That Ravi, a green card holder but not an American, potentially faced 10 years in prison and deportation to India (where he has not lived since he was a baby) is an interesting twist to this case.
As Ravi’s father read to the court in a prepared statement, “For the past 20 months a history has been in the making and we have witnessed several chapters of vengeful, malicious, selective prosecution filled with lies and injustice. Now it is time for the final chapter, honorable judge we all know you have the power and final say but please show heart today, to make sure the last chapter is all about truth, justice and preserve the sanctity of American judicial system which is widely believed to be the best in the world. Our judicial system advocates “Presumption of Innocence.” Probably this is one of the cases that violates that golden rule, where Dharun was first found guilty, followed by case build up, a trial and here we are waiting for sentencing. In addition, he was convicted of Bias Intimidation under a “muddled law” as described by yourself. Your honor, with your actions please ensure the final chapter of this sad story end on a good note and not the beginning of ‘American nightmare.'”
I can think of dozens of people who I have known that likely would act in a similar fashion to Ravi if they discovered that their roommate was sleeping with an older man in their room. While Ravi’s tech skills may have set him apart, his use of social media to out his roommate is just a modern iteration of an age-old problem.
Perhaps one reason for Ravi’s immature behavior is a lack of education prior to entering Rutgers: while growing up on Long Island, I learned quite a bit about STDs, psychological disorders, drug dangers, and sexual health. However, homosexuality was never something that was brought up during my elementary, middle, or high school health classes. I learned everything I know about homosexuality by having gay friends and family members (as well as the public debates over gays in the military and celebrity sagas). I presume that if public schools in the New York suburbs aren’t teaching kids about homosexuality, this lack of education is likely just as bad in other places throughout America.
But times are changing. As Brian Stelter recently wrote in the New York Times, through television shows like Modern Family and Glee, America has become more accepting of homosexuality. Strong public efforts to encourage people to accept homosexuality, such as Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Campaign” also help to make homosexuality more widely understood.
The outcome of Ravi case answers the question, “Are you your roommate’s keeper?” The answer is no. No matter how many college shenanigans take place, individuals are responsible for their own actions. However, it is the responsibility of institutions and communities to ensure that individuals have the resources necessary to escape dire situations like Clementi’s.
Though I imagine it was part of Ravi’s legal strategy, I am still disappointed that he did not say sorry to Clementi. As Judge Bermann said, “I heard this jury say guilty 288 times, and I haven’t heard you apologize once.”