The Ravi Uproar: We are Missing the Point

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

The Ravi Uproar: We are Missing the Point

A few days after Dharun Ravi was handed a guilty verdict for reportedly using his webcam to spy on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi, the world is definitely talking… a lot. Naturally, there are those that decry the verdict, arguing that Ravi came into the trial already “prejudged and declared guilty” as the media for the past year and half has been relentless in trying to figure out how much Ravi’s webcast played in Tyler’s decision to commit suicide. Then, there are the “burn him at the stake people,” those that feel justice really won’t be served unless Ravi faces some jail time or possible deportation.

But here’s what we do know. Ravi, a former Rutgers University, was found guilty by a New Jersey jury last week of 15 counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. While he will officially be sentenced in May, he faces 10 years in prison and deportation to India.

This week, an online petition to the White House suggesting that Ravi was not given a fair trial gained momentum as many came forward contending that he received an “unfair verdict.” By Monday night the petition – which asks the Obama administration to "address the fact that media is driving Justice System's decisions" and "18 year old Rutgers student Dharun Ravi is NOT Biased” – had garnered 2,000 signatures. It must get 25,000 signatures within a month to get a White House response.

In my own world, the talking hasn’t stopped either. From family members to coworkers, my world is abuzz over this verdict. In fact, this weekend one of my family members brought up the fact that Ravi is just a child and where are we without forgiveness in this world. Where are we if we can’t accept that Ravi made a dumb decision, as a child, for a few seconds and that will now stay with him the rest of his life? But then I’ve also heard in the past few days that Ravi was a homophobe and his actions were premeditated and calculated; this was not a simple prank.

I like to think that my opinions lie somewhere in the middle. I certainly want to think that I believe in forgiveness and giving people second chances, but I don’t know if I do for Ravi. Ravi certainly knew what he was doing the nights he decided to tape Tyler having intimate moments with another man. Evidence has shown that not only did Ravi set out to tape the encounters, but he encouraged others to join in the viewing as well. Evidence has also shown that Tyler was uncomfortable enough with Ravi’s blatant display of homophobia that he asked for a room change days before committing suicide.  And perhaps the most damming evidence of all is that Ravi tweeted two days before Tyler’s death “Roommate asked for the room til midnight. I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay!"

To me, this was not the act of a child, as the defense argued. I won’t go so far as to say that Tyler was a cold-blooded criminal, but for an educated, articulate young man, this was also not a simple prank in which he couldn’t tell that what he was doing wrong.

I accept that people are confused – some feel that Ravi deserves the harshest punishment ever and others believe he was treated unjustly. But, our focus is misdirected. Let us not forget about why this trial took place in the first place; a young man’s terrible actions played some part in another young man taking his own life. Let’s not forget about the real victims – Tyler and his family. And let’s make sure that we are having enough conversation of how we, as a society can do better. Do better in teaching our kids right from wrong and do better in teaching that a few careless (or calculated) seconds of their life can ruin their life forever.

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