Dharun Ravi is a young man who made a lot of mistakes.

I don’t defend him, not even for a minute.  Ravi, a freshman at Rutgers University, was charged with 15 counts of invasion of privacy after spying on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kissing another man and showing the footage to friends. A few days after the incident, Clementi killed himself by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge. What Ravi did was disgusting, but he clearly never meant to kill anyone.

I grew up in the same town as Ravi, in Plainsboro, N.J., and am just one year behind him in school. I don’t know him personally, but many of my friends do. When Tyler Clementi’s suicide made waves all across the nation, no one was more shocked than the residents of our town.

As a whole, my small town is liberal and ethnically diverse. We all learned very quickly to accept and befriend  people who are different from ourselves; it’s the only way to live in a community that is small yet diverse.

A majority views the whole situation as a homophobic hate crime, and if I lived anywhere else, I probably would too. But seeing distorted depictions of my hometown on television and seeing my friends’ words being twisted in The New Yorker and The New York Times has forced me to re-examine my first reactions to the situation. It’s easy to forget that there is a human side to everything until a situation like this impacts you directly. No one from my neck of the woods thought a tragedy like this could ever happen to people from a town like ours.

News reports depict Plainsboro as nothing more than a rich suburb where parents raise their children with a sense of entitlement. But in reality, there is a large immigrant population and most parents fought hard to establish themselves here in the United States.

Ravi has been in this country since he was in grade school, but due to U.S. immigration laws he is still not a citizen. Given his recent crimes, he could be deported back to India.

The media has slanted the case to make it seem as if Ravi displayed Clementi’s sexual orientation in front of the entire campus. In reality, he had already come out and few people saw the footage. That doesn’t make what Ravi did excusable or forgivable by any means. Had Clementi been straight, Ravi’s actions would still be equally wrong, but the incident wouldn’t have been a national news story andClementi would not have been turned into a poster boy in the cause against cyber bullying.

While Ravi was not charged for Clementi’s death, the fact of the matter is that if Clementi hadn’t committed suicide, there would be no criminal case. If Clementi had reported him beyond the Residence Assistant instead, disciplinary action would have been taken. He may have been kicked out of school, or he may have gotten off with a roommate switch and a slap on the wrist, but it’s unlikely anyone would have pressed charges. But pointing fingers now won’t change anything.

Sentencing is scheduled for this May, and Ravi faces a possible 10 years in jail or deportation. He is certainly guilty of the invasion of privacy counts he was charged with and shouldn’t get off scot-free, but these terms are too harsh. He is being made into an example. Ravi is an insensitive idiot, not a murderer. His roommate’s life has been destroyed, but the guilt he has to live with every day has surely ruined his life as well. A 10-year jail sentence won’t reform him; it’s just salt in the wound.

Sari Frankel is a freshman in the College, and is a deputy photo editor for The Hoya.

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