Campus Pride Blog

New York Man who discovered Tyler Clementi dead sends Letter to Rutgers University President McCormick asking for “expulsion” of Ravi and Wei

Dear President McCormick,

Picture 26.pngMy names is Jim Swimm. I’m a 39-year old man living in the Inwood community here in New York, NY, the area where Tyler Clementi’s body was found on Sept. 29th. I was the first person to see Tyler’s life-less body floating along the banks of the Harlem River. It was a surreal moment, to say the very least, and one that is having a profound effect on my life.

You see, I’m also Gay. I’m not sure if you are aware of the other boys who died that week that Tyler committed suicide, but I grew up in Houston, TX, in the same area as Asher Brown. Asher was a 13-year old boy who couldn’t bear the bullying any longer and shot himself with his stepfather’s gun. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, the issues of homophobia, anti-LGBT bullying, and teen suicide were all in the forefront of my thoughts that day as I walked through the park and came upon a body in the water. I thought it just a random occurrence, unfortunate, but random.

Once it was confirmed that the body I’d seen was, in fact, Tyler Clementi, I began to doubt that my being there at that particular moment was actually as random as I thought. Of all the people in the city, even this community, to have first seen that sadly misused and violated boy’s corpse, is a Gay man who happens to also have a connection to another boy who was”bullied to death” (as Asher’s mother put it?) I can’t believe there wasn’t some fateful occurrence that put me there. Now, I think I’m beginning to see why.

The following is something I posted on Facebook after attending the vigil in Washington Square Park last Sunday. Please read this, as I think it explains how I came to find some higher purpose to all this:

I had no clue that I had seen Tyler Clementi’s body float within feet from me along the banks of the Harlem River. Joking about the experience even! It was just a random, surreal moment, or so I thought. I didn’t know Tyler’s story…yet.

That evening, the beginnings of the shock set in. I started to search the web to find out who this person was. Then I read about Tyler Clementi. My heart sank. I was already contending with intense feelings over Asher Brown, whose dead body was found the day before in his closet in Texas.

Not just Texas, but Houston…my hometown. In Cy-Fair no less, a neighboring school district where I’d attended 5th grade. That evening, upon reading about the terrible indignity suffered by Tyler Clementi, I knew that body from the river would turn out to be him. I simply felt it — as much as I hoped against hope that it wasn’t. By Thursday afternoon, it was confirmed. It was Tyler’s body I’d seen. I was already struggling to put the image of a body floating face-down in the river out of my mind to no avail. Now, there was Tyler Clementi’s face too.

Tonight, I attended a vigil to honor Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, and four other young men who took their own lives — yet changed mine. As was quoted at tonight’s vigil, from Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’:”Attention must be paid.”

We can no longer allow anyone to suffer like these boys, and so many like them…including myself, did. “Attention must be paid.”

Parents, teachers…all adults, must no longer turn a blind eye to the homophobia& fear that is killing our LGBT kids. “Attention must be paid.”

From now on, I will pay attention and call attention to these kids. I care, I love them, and I know you do too. We must all take part in this change.

“Attention must be paid”, by us all…everyday, to end homophobia& hate.

I thank Tyler Clementi.

I thank him, as I cry for him, because he’s opened my mind and my heart with our encounter that day. I will try to reach as many as I can with his message, his quiet message whispered to me on the banks of the Harlem River, and voiced loudly in the rain to me tonight…

“Attention Must Be Paid.”
President McCormick, as sad as this situation is (and I can truly appreciate how difficult this decision must be for you) for the two students at your university who tormented Tyler, I beg of you: please pay attention to what Tyler told me that day as well. I think I’m here to help you by presenting this story to you. So you can see the damage that Dharun Ravi & Molly Wei caused with their actions.

To do something so heinously disrespectful and harmful to another student that it leads him to throw himself off a bridge? To so recklessly disregard another person’s privacy and just throw away any compassion for Tyler Clementi as they did, MUST have ramifications.

I think that’s the message that you can make clear to all young people. Please consider the implications of what they did; obviously, just from seeing the huge emotional response I’ve witnessed, those kids brought sadness& pain to far more people than just Tyler Clementi. I don’t say that lightly, because I honestly feel sad for these two kids, as well. Their lives & plans for the future could be totally ruined by this.

All because they decided to abuse& take advantage of a Gay boy. It’s that part wherein Rutgers’ obligation lies; making it clear to all current & future students that these types of actions will not be tolerated — period.

I thank you for your time and ask, finally for the immediate expulsion of both Dharun Ravi & Molly Wei.

Jim Swimm