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Saturday, October 2, 2010

ANOTHER Teen Suicide, This Time in Rhode Island

As if to cap an extremely depressing spate of news of gay young men who have taken their own lives comes news of a student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Raymond Chase, an openly gay sophomore studying culinary arts, apparently hanged himself in his dormitory room. Perez Hilton released a statement from Ronald Martel, the dean of students, that went out on Thursday, Sept. 30.

The statement noted Chase’s "passing," and stated that there no funeral arrangements released but there would be memorial service at the university. The dean also offered counseling to distraught students.

According to Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride, the reason for Chase’s suicide is currently unknown. Windmeyer goes on to demand "national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country."

As noted in a comprehensive story on EDGE, college campuses are not the havens for liberal tolerance many believe they are. In fact, many, many LGBT students experience harassment and worse.

The situation burst into national attention with the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. Clementi’s death attracted widespread media attention not only because of the dramatic way he ended his life -- jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and New York City and one of the busiest bridges in the world. But also the circumstances that drove him to the desperate act: the secret videotaping of his engagement with another man in his dorm room by his roommate and a female accomplice, and the distribution of the video on the Internet.

Johnson & Wales University (not "the University of Providence," as noted in other reports), is a private career-oriented school. The largest of four campuses in the United States, the Rhode Island school is especially well known for its Culinary Arts and Hospitality programs. Among its alumni are celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Florence, Sam Talbot and Aarón Sanches, and New York club owner Amy Sacco.

Chase came from Monticello, a small town of 6,500 people nestled in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City. It became famous as part of the "Borscht Belt" of Jewish resorts that, in the middle part of the last century, nurtured several well-known entertainers. More recently, the city and the surrounding area have fallen on hard times. The state has been debating allowing casino gambling to revive the area for decades.


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