“The Laramie Project” sparks discussion about tolerance and human rights

The Common Experience Movie Night for “The Laramie Project” was both heart-wrenching and moving


Sydney Randall

Kim Pelle, holding a physical copy of “The Laramie Project,” leads a discussion following the showing of the film.

Sydney Randall, Staff Reporter

30 students and community members gathered in University Center North on Thursday, Sept. 12 for a special viewing of the movie “The Laramie Project.” The Common Experience Office and the Adult Student Center co-hosted the event. Kim Pelle, coordinator of non-traditional student programs at IU Southeast, led a discussion afterwards.

“The Common Experience committee comes up with a theme each year that is a way to examine a social injustice. We pick a book and a theme and we center a variety of events throughout the year around that theme. This year our theme is tolerance and the struggle for human rights in communities,” Pelle said.

“The Laramie Project” is about the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man from Laramie, Wyoming. Pelle stated that she thought the movie would fit right in with this year’s theme.

“It’s a sad story, but like every tragedy there is some good that has come out of it as well,” Pelle said. “I wanted to take a tragic thing that happened and turn it into a learning experience for our students.”

After the showing, multiple topics were discussed. On the topic of the possibility of hatred and bigotry occurring at IU Southeast, one student spoke up.

“I’d stop it. I’d be the bigger person and stand up for the person being harassed,” said Daniela Mora, a freshman nursing major.

During the closing remarks of the discussion, Ian McDermott, a freshman psychology major, provided an impassioned remark.

“I think the movie was very powerful and sad at the same time. Gay people face a lot of issues, especially with coming out, because they are afraid of what people might think and what people might do,” McDermott said. “What happened in Laramie was a very sad example of what happens when the wrong type of people take offense to being different.”

For anyone interested in “The Laramie Project” or the Common Experience theme this year, there are two more upcoming and related events on campus.

The first is a Common Experience guest speaker, Matthew Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard. She will be coming to the Ogle Center on October 8.

The second event is the IU Southeast Theater Department’s production of “The Laramie Project.” The production is set to run in the Ogle Center on December 5-8.