The University of Mississippi’s Bias Incident Response Team released a statement Friday evening regarding its investigation into the Oct. 1 incident at the theater department’s production of “The Laramie Project.”
The university response team began working Thursday morning after The Daily Mississippian reported that some students who attended the play, which is about an openly gay man murdered in Wyoming, disrupted the production. The play’s director and theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter said that some audience members used homophobic slurs and heckled cast members and the characters they were portraying about their body types and sexual orientations.
Friday’s response team release indicated that the committee met with many people involved in the incident, including the cast and crew of the play, and multiple recommendations were presented.
Among the committee’s recommendations is a mandatory educational dialogue session led by University faculty and members of the Ole Miss Allies program for all students who attended the play last Tuesday night.
“The University BIRT is united in the belief that we are a university where the objectives are learning, growing and becoming leaders,” the release stated. “The dialogue will seek to repair the harm that was done to the effected community.”
Ledbetter and other sources, including the theater department’s performance report, told the DM that an estimated 20 football players were in attendance Tuesday, including some who disrupted the play. In Friday’s press release, the response team that that the specific involvement of the athletes “has not been verified and they were not the only students present.”
Director of Athletics Ross Bjork and Chancellor Dan Jones issued an apology Thursday afternoon for the behavior of the students in attendance. Additionally, Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze tweeted Thursday morning: “We certainly do not condone any actions that offend or hurt people in any way. We are working with all departments involved to find the facts.”
The response team encouraged anyone with information to come forward and send it to the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Title IX Coordinator Joseph Lawhorne at email@example.com.
Response team co-chairs Merrill Magruder and Val Ross told the DM Thursday that the committee’s definite completion date is uncertain. Other faculty members on the committee are Camp Best, Derrick Dixon, Judith Hopper and Jeff Kellum.
“We are working diligently to speak with all individuals involved or associated with the event,” Magruder and Ross said in an email to the DM Thursday.