By Logan Gray – VP of New Jersey Alpha at Rutgers
At Rutgers University, Phi Delta Theta is the most diverse fraternity on campus. Representing many different walks of life culturally and demographically, we place a high priority on the promotion of both tolerance and respect. Not only do we promote these ideals, but the experience that is gained from the exchange of beliefs is at the foundation of what it means to be a Rutgers Phi Delt.
When the bothers of Phi Delta Theta NJ Alpha learned of what had happened to one of our fellow Rutgers students, Tyler Clementi, we were both devastated at the loss for the University community as well as alarmed at the flagrant intolerance of the acts that lead to the incident. Since the event, there has been some question over just how serious these acts were. Without a doubt, the reckless actions of Dharan Ravi and Molly Wei weighed heavily on Tyler’s psyche; the “extent” to which their actions influenced Tyler is irrelevant. It’s debatable whether or not this was actually a “hate crime;” but the fact that it was an extreme case of privacy invasion is non-debatable. Removing from consideration the peripheral disputes over the incident, the lesson to be learned is how catastrophic consequences can result from an intolerant or ignorant attitude coupled with irresponsible behavior. This lesson is relevant at the individual level, such as interaction between roommates; but is also applicable to all facets of human interaction, including war declarations over cultural differences.
What happened to Tyler Clementi is but an example of the epidemic of intolerance that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. The only way to rectify the damage throughout history that intolerance has caused is to make a conscious decision to understand the beliefs and lifestyle of others rather than to reject or exploit them. When understanding is impossible, simple acceptance of differences is equally productive. Fighting to the death or maliciously exploiting differences is never going to bridge gaps, but will absolutely broaden them.
Moral rectitude is at the basis of what it means to be a Phi Delt. The practice of this ideal is impossible without understanding, appreciating and living the concepts of tolerance and mutual respect. I’m sure Dharan and Molly never imagined the level of psychological instability that existed within Tyler. But, who ever does know exactly what’s going on in someone else’s head? No one ever knows how one’s actions will affect another and to what degree- especially malicious actions. We will get nowhere as a society by exploiting ideals that we do not fully agree with or understand. The only way that harmony will ever be achieved is through respecting different perspectives and supporting cultural and philosophical diversity. The most pain caused by peacefully conceding to a differing belief results from biting one’s lip. The most destruction caused by even the smallest gesture of intolerance is death.
I, Logan Gray, Vice President of New Jersey Alpha, hope that all Phi Delts will take to heart the moral implications that surround the death of Tyler Clementi. Whether you agree with his lifestyle or not, we should all respect him as a fellow man and acknowledge the contributions that he made to our society. We should respect the emotion devastation that the situation causes for Tyler’s family and close friends. And above all, we should continue to live our lives as respectable men of an honorable organization that promotes the very ideals that will drive humanity in a positive direction.