The University of Mississippi will now force all students who attended a play about murdered gay student Matthew Shepard to go to a re-education session because a few unidentified audience members disrupted the performance by voicing anti-gay slurs and laughing at the wrong times, reports The Commercial Appeal.
The Ole Miss administration had charged a six-person Bias Incident Response Team with determining exactly which students (or non-students) disrupted a university theater production of “The Laramie Project,” a play based on reaction to the 1998 torture and murder of Shepard, a student who attended the University of Wyoming.
The Bias Incident Response Team failed in this endeavor, concluding in a statement that “the task of identifying specific individuals who were purported to have disrupted the performance is difficult because of the dark theatre.”
“Reports indicate that comments were made by student athletes and students, but no report has singled out a specific student or mentioned any names,” the statement also said.
Initially, The Daily Mississippian had reported that many of the 100 or so spectators blamed a couple dozen Ole Miss football players who were in the audience for the “borderline hate speech.” The players turned out for an Oct. 1 performance of “The Laramie Project” because a freshman-level theater course in which they are enrolled requires them to attend a certain number of plays.
Last week, reports The Appeal, a group of football players apologized for what happened. However, a number of actors apparently believed that the players “didn’t realize what it was that they were apologizing for.”
The Ole Miss administration is not letting the mere fact that it can’t figure out who disrupted the play bog down its disciplinary efforts. Instead, Ole Miss is making every single student who was in the audience on Oct. 1 attend something called an “educational dialogue session.”
Faculty members will lead the “educational dialogue session.” Also taking the lead in the re-education session will be an organization called Allies, a campus group that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
“The cast and crew stressed that they did not want to see punitive action, but rather make this an educational opportunity for those who were in attendance,” the Ole Miss Bias Incident Response Team stated.