By DM STAFF
The University of Mississippi’s Bias Incident Response Team released its second update Monday evening of its investigation into the Oct. 1 incident at the Ole Miss theater department’s production of “The Laramie Project.” Below is the exact text from the committee’s update:
The University’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) convened at 10:00 am on Thursday, October 3rd after the co chairs were notified by a Theater faculty member on Wednesday afternoon, October 2nd of an incident that took place at the October 1st performance of The Laramie Project. After meeting consistently for the past two weeks, the BIRT has received broadly differing stories being told about the exact nature of the events that occurred that evening and it appears it may not be possible to determine with integrity exactly what was said or done by whom. However, the BIRT has determined that some members of the student audience, which included more than 100 men and women, both students and student-athletes, made derogatory remarks and engaged in inappropriate behavior during the October 1st performance. These inappropriate actions pertained to the performers’ sexuality and body construction and had serious and direct effects on the cast and crew members. The BIRT also determined that the negative comments were overheard by both cast and crew members, and by some members of the audience.
At the request of the student members from the cast and crew, the BIRT immediately coordinated an educational dialogue led by faculty and administrators while continuing to gather facts related to the incident. Experts in Restorative Justice worked with the cast and crew members to facilitate the dialogue that was attended by more than 90% of the students present at the October 1st performance. The remaining students have been scheduled for a make up dialogue. The sessions included discussion about the following: impact on victims, offenders, and community stakeholders; perception, intent, and impact regarding behavior; obligations regarding the University as a community, as well as a larger local, regional, and national community; need for respect and compassion between those who felt victimized and those who felt offended; role of the academic community with respect to being exposed to different ideas and perspectives; and the concept of active bystander behavior.
Continued review of the actions demonstrated by members of our student body resulted in the BIRT’s decision to make additional recommendations. Regardless of the exact nature of the events that occurred on the evening of October 1st, the BIRT recognizes the gravity of the impact of this event upon our entire campus community, and particularly upon members of our LGBTQ community. As a result, the recommendations of the BIRT are designed to both address the inappropriate behavior that took place on October 1st and to contribute to the University’s ongoing work to promote a supportive and diverse learning environment for all students by promoting and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming campus atmosphere.
The recommendations of the BIRT include expansion of required curriculum for the EDHE First-Year experience classes, increased instruction for required co-curricular activities, support for ongoing efforts to evaluate policy and procedures that impact our LGBTQ community, and development of cultural competence workshops for both staff and students that include training on using inclusive language. The co-chairs of the BIRT will correspond with the Chancellor’s Office, Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, Office of the Provost, Department of Athletics, and Center for Student Success and First Year Experience regarding the aforementioned recommendations.