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Ole Miss response team would like to make Laramie Project incident “an educational opportunity”

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Ole Miss's Bias Incident Response Team issued a statement in response to Tuesday's incident at a theater department production of "The Laramie Project" on Friday and said that the crew of the play "stressed that they did not want to see punitive action, but rather make this an educational opportunity for those who were in attendance."

Tuesday evening, according to the Daily Missisippian, an estimated 20 Ole Miss players were in attendance when members of the audience started heckling and shouting homophobic slurs during the performance of the play, which is about the events following Matthew Shepard's death in Wyoming in 1998.

"The football players were certainly not the only audience members that were being offensive last night,” theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter told the Daily Missisippian after the incident. “But they were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too. It seemed like they didn’t know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things.”

The BIRT was formed this spring to "to establish and sustain the university’s expectations around inclusivity and to provide an atmosphere that supports a healthy curricular and co-curricular experience."

"The task of identifying specific individuals who were purported to have disrupted the performance is difficult because of the dark theatre, and initial reports vary in regard to the frequency, volume and source of the comments or disruption," the statement said. "Although initial reports indicate that student-athletes led the action, it is important to note that this has not been verified and they were not the only students present. Reports indicate that comments were made by student athletes and students but no report has singled out a specific student or mentioned any names."

Nothing has been announced or determined about punishment for any of the players in attendance. Ole Miss plays Auburn on Saturday. The unidentified players in attendance at the play were there as part of a freshman-level theater course.

According to the statement, every student who attended the play will be required to attend "an educational dialogue session led by University faculty and Allies.  Cast members are invited to participate as well. The dialogue will seek to repair the harm that was done to the effected community."

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