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Rutgers holds vigil for student who committed suicide

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Vigil to remember Rutgers student
  • Tyler Clementi committed suicide after the broadcast of a sexual encounter with a man
  • Students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are charged with invasion of privacy
  • Ravi and Wei might face additional charges such as bias
  • Clementi's family says it hopes the tragedy will serve as a call for compassion

(CNN) -- Rutgers University held an emotional vigil Sunday evening as the campus grapples with the suicide of a student whose sexual encounter with another man was broadcast online.

The body of Tyler Clementi, 18, was recovered from the Hudson River on Thursday, more than a week after he jumped from the George Washington Bridge, which spans the river between New York and New Jersey.

Two other Rutgers students -- Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 18 -- have been charged with invasion of privacy. The pair allegedly placed a camera in Clementi's dorm room without his knowledge and then streamed his sexual encounter online, according to the Middlesex County, New Jersey, prosecutor's office.

"Our entire campus is very upset about what happened," said Greg Blimling, Rutgers' Vice President of Student Affairs. "The entire campus is in mourning. And we feel very deeply for what happened to the family. This is a terrible tragedy."

Students and other members of the university community, some wearing pins that read "Pride," stood silently as they lit and held white candles.

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The vigil brought together student organizations, campus offices and LGBT communities "as an opportunity for the members of the community and our allies to stand together united in peace, healing and social justice," a statement from the university said.

A student who attended the vigil stressed the need for civility.

"We're all linked on some sort of deeper level and we just need to find it," said Caroline Tuero.

On Friday, the president of Rutgers pledged to meet with members of the university's gay community as the school deals with scrutiny in the wake of the suicide.

In a letter to the Rutgers community, President Richard McCormick praised what he called the school's "strong history of social activism on behalf of diversity." However, he said, the university "is an imperfect institution in an imperfect society."

University officials declined to respond to CNN's questions about when Rutgers first learned of the webcam incident, citing privacy laws. But a school spokesman said Friday that officials "did the best they can."

"I have spoken to virtually every principal involved in this matter, and they have attempted to handle this matter to the best of their ability," Rutgers spokesman Greg Travor told CNN.

McCormick said that the incident has raised questions about the campus climate.

"Students, parents and alumni have expressed deep concern that our university, which prides itself on its rich diversity, is not fully welcoming and accepting of all students," the president said in a letter.

New Jersey prosecutors were working to determine whether additional charges, including bias, may be brought against Ravi and Wei.

On the evening of September 19, Ravi allegedly sent a message via microblogging site Twitter about Clementi.

"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Ravi tried to use the webcam again two days later, on September 21, according to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office.

"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi is believed to have tweeted.

The next day, Clementi was dead.

A mobile status update September 22 on a Facebook page purportedly belonging to Clementi said: "jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Clementi's family has remained largely quiet, except to say that their personal tragedy has raised a host of legal issues for the country.

"Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity," the statement said.

CNN's Ross Levitt contributed to this report.