By Chris Kieffer
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
OXFORD, Miss. — University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones and Athletic Director Ross Bjork issued a joint statement on Tuesday’s incident. The statement includes an apology on behalf of the university’s 22,000 students, its faculty and its staff.
“While we work to determine with certainty who disrupted the Laramie Project play, we want everyone within our university community and beyond to know that we strongly condemn the behavior exhibited Tuesday night,” the statement reads.
It also notes that Jones and Bjork will meet today with freshman student athletes from various sports who attended the play and have a dialogue about what happened, about the university-wide commitment to inclusivity and civility and about the important role they play in representing the university. The entire statement is below the text of the article.
OXFORD – The University of Mississippi is investigating a Tuesday night incident in which students allegedly disrupted a theater department production and used gay slurs.
The Daily Mississippian student newspaper reported that members of an audience of mostly Ole Miss students, including about 20 football players, openly disrupted the Ole Miss theater department’s production of “The Laramie Project” on Tuesday night at Meek Auditorium.
The play is about the death of an openly gay Wyoming college student, who was brutally beaten and left to die. The play’s director, Rory Ledbetter, told the Daily Mississippian that audience members used derogatory slurs and heckled cast members.
UM Dean of Students Sparky Rearon said on Thursday morning that the university is investigating the incident. The university’s Bias Incident Response Team met about it on Thursday morning and will make a report to the university.
The BIRT is a group of about five faculty and staff members charged with investigating incidents of possible discrimination. Having such a team is not unique to Ole Miss.
“They want to make certain they have all the facts of what actually occurred and then they’ll make a recommendation to the university on how to move forward,” said UM Director of Public Relations Danny Blanton.
The UM Athletic Department is aware of the incident and is gathering information, and head coach Hugh Freeze said this morning that he was just beginning to look into the matter. He also said he had learned that there was “a lot of laughter by all students in attendance.”
STATEMENT from Dan Jones and Ross Bjork:
“While we work to determine with certainty who disrupted the Laramie Project play, we want everyone within our university community and beyond to know that we strongly condemn the behavior exhibited Tuesday night. As a member of the Ole Miss family, each of us has a responsibility to be accountable for our actions, and these individuals will be held accountable. Our investigation will determine the degree to which any and all students were involved.
As a first step to addressing behavior at the performance Tuesday night, we will meet today with the freshman student-athletes (from various sports) who attended the play and have a dialogue about what happened, about our university-wide commitment to inclusivity and civility, and about the important role they play in representing the university. It is clear that some students badly misrepresented the culture of this university. From there, we will work with Student-Affairs and the Bias Incident Response Team to determine the facts and appropriate next steps.
Incidents like this remind all educators that our job is to prepare our students to be leaders in life during their years on campus and after they graduate from Ole Miss. This behavior by some students reflects poorly on all of us, and it reinforces our commitment to teaching inclusivity and civility to young people who still have much to learn. We will be engaging our student-athletes with leaders on the subject of individuality and tolerance, so we can further enforce life lessons and develop them to their fullest potential.
On behalf of our 22,000 students, our faculty, and our staff, we apologize.”