The tragic death of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers, made headlines world-wide last September, when he leaped from the George Washington Bridge, shortly after his roommate and another student used a webcam in a dorm room to "livestream" a video of a tryst involving Clementi and another man.
In accordance with New Jersey law, Clementi's family has preserved their right to sue Rutgers for wrongful death, primarily by giving the university timely notice that they may take legal action in the future.
In a notice, Clementi's family says Rutgers "failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts", referring to the gross invasion of Clementi's privacy by students using the university-supplied internet connection, technology and/or equipment.
The truly responsible parties are Clementi's roommate and the other student participating in the gross invasion of his privacy. Like Clementi, they were 18 year-old freshmen at Rutgers. Both have reportedly left the university following his death. Both are charged with criminal invasion of privacy.
In my opinion, both are guilty of "felony poor judgment", "felony cruelty to another human being" and "felony infliction of emotional distress, causing death". While I am sure that no such crimes exist in the New Jersey Penal Code, I am also certain that their thoughtless and cruel actions will be with each for the rest of their lives.
Realistically, Rutgers did not fail Mr. Clementi as a student. The school could not anticipate that its internet system purchased, designed and installed for the use and benefit of the university community would be used in this manner and cause a death of a student. In my opinion, the responsible students' behavior demonstrates a depraved indifference to Tyler Clementi's life.
Rutgers has denied liability, saying: "We at the university share the family's sense of loss of their son, who was a member of our community... We also recognize that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son's death... While the university understands this reaction, the university is not responsible for Tyler Clementi's suicide".