On Feb. 4, 2013, Rutgers University and the Tyler Clementi Foundation announced the creation of the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers.
The tragic death of 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi on Sept. 22, 2010, deeply affected the university community and drew international attention to the issues of privacy, cyberbullying and gay youth suicide.
In 2011, the Clementi family established the Tyler Clementi Foundation to honor Tyler’s memory. Three core strategies guide its advocacy, partnerships and outreach:
- Promote accepting social environments at school, at home, in church and online
- Turn Bystanders into Upstanders to prevent bullying
- Build an infrastructure of support for LGBT and vulnerable youth and their families
The interdisciplinary Tyler Clementi Center will draw upon existing faculty, staff and resources across Rutgers (including the School of Social Work, the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, the School of Communication and Information, the Graduate School of Education and the School of Arts and Sciences) and throughout the United States to conduct new research and develop programs and approaches to address issues that confront young people as they transition from home to college life.
The center will offer such academic events as lectures, symposia and seminars on topics including:
- Decision making in the use and misuse of new technologies and social media
- Youth suicide – particularly among LGBTQ youth and other young people – during the transition to adulthood
- Transitions and adjustment to college life
- Bullying and cyberbullying
- Understanding and promoting safe and inclusive social environments
The center aims to create innovative and effective programs and practices that may be models for other colleges and universities to assist first-year students and high school seniors in adjusting to college life.
The center will provide scholarly support for the work of policymakers, social activists, community leaders and other advocates for vulnerable youth.
Rutgers and the Clementi family have worked together in the past:
- In April 2011, the Clementis attended and spoke at an event at Rutgers-Camden. A Wiffle ball tournament was organized by students and held in memory of Tyler to call attention to anti-bullying efforts.
- In October 2011, Rutgers, with the agreement of the Clementi family, served as the venue for an Anderson Cooper 360° town hall meeting on the topic of bullying. The program (“Bullying: It Stops Here”) won an Emmy Award for Outstanding News Discussion and Analysis.
- In November 2011, Rutgers and the Tyler Clementi Foundation co-sponsored a symposium on the use and misuse of social networks. Scholars and researchers explored and discussed the impact of new digital media on the psychology and sociology of adolescents and young adults.
The director of the Tyler Clementi Center is Jeffrey Longhofer, Ph.D., LCSW and an associate professor of social work at Rutgers University. He is a clinical social worker and applied anthropologist whose research focuses on health and mental health practice, the cross-cultural study of mental illness, mental health case management, and the roles stigma and shame play in the social and psychological dynamics of practitioner/patient interactions. Dr. Longhofer conducts research on anti-LGBT social movements. He has served as journal editor and on editorial boards for the Society for Applied Anthropology, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the American Anthropological Association. He has written two books: On Having and Being a Case Manager: A Relational Method for Recovery (Columbia University Press, 2010) and Qualitative Methods for Practice (Oxford, 2013).
The co-director of the center is Susan Furrer, Psy.D. She is the executive director of the Center for Applied Psychology, a division of the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP). The Center for Applied Psychology provides a range of training, consultation and intervention activities which incorporate training for graduate students in psychology. Dr. Furrer earned her doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1990 from GSAPP at Rutgers University. She has extensive administrative experience with clinical, training and technical assistance efforts. She has also directed a variety of research and program evaluation projects focused on violence prevention. Her clinical interests are in the treatment of children and adults with trauma.