Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are There Things Money Can't Fix?

Last week it was announced that the parents of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who killed himself this fall after his roommate put images of him having sex with another man on the internet, intend to sue the school for failing to protect Tyler. (Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and Ravi's friend, Molly Wei, also ridiculed Clementi on Twitter.)

The notice sent to Rutgers by the Clementis' attorney said that the university "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, and...failed to act timely and appropriately." A Rutgers spokesperson said that the university sympathizes with the family but bears no responsibility in Tyler's death.

Those of you who read my blog or Facebook around the time of Tyler's suicide know how devastated I was by this tragedy. I certainly blame Ravi and Wei for their heartless intimidation and ridicule of Tyler, as well as society in general for ingraining in Tyler's mind that being "found out" as gay was so horrible he needed to kill himself to escape it. But unless the Clementis have proof that Rutgers' administration knew something about what was happening and failed to act, I do not believe the university is to blame.

This is a whole lot of background for a fundamental question I'd like to ask: when tragedy strikes, why does it almost always boil down to money?

When a product malfunctions and causes injury or death, I understand the rationale for a lawsuit.

When a person or company's malfeasance or neglect causes injury or death, I understand.

Beyond that, however, does money make it better? If your child commits suicide or is accidentally killed by a child playing with a gun, will large sums of money ameliorate your suffering?

I understand that sometimes it isn't about the money, it's about seeing justice served, or making a point publicly. But I have to believe that with multi-million dollar lawsuits, somewhere deep inside, it is about the money. (Nowhere has it been stated that the Clementis are suing for large sums of money; I'm simply making a point.)

I mean no one any harm with my questions, I'm just trying to understand.

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