U groups to hold free symposium on hate crimes at Rarig Center

by Kori Koch

The University community will have the opportunity to discuss a local view on hate crimes today.

Judy Shepard, the mother of a Wyoming student who was killed in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime, will speak about the experience and participate in a discussion about hate crimes at 2 p.m. at the Rarig Center.

The event, titled “How is it Here?” was organized by the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office.

The symposium is free to the public, but preregistration is requested and available onsite.

B David Galt, GLBT programs director, said Shepard’s story can provide a framework around the issue of hate crimes.

“The reality is that this kind of incident can happen anywhere,” he said.

After Shepard’s presentation, four local panelists will field questions and lead a discussion to identify the local environment for hate crimes.

Panelists include Rev. Anita Hill of the St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church, Avelino Mills-Novoa, associate vice president of the University

Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs, and Rebecca Waggoner-Kloek, an anti-violence coordinator for OutFront Minnesota.

The panelists were carefully chosen to provide strong voices and represent a variety of perspectives, Galt said.

Benjamin Rasmussen, a University student who will also be one of the panelists, said he hopes the program produces conversation.

“A lack of communication can produce hate and violence toward any minority group,” Rasmussen said.

Galt said he hopes people gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the impact that hurt, hate and violence have on victims, friends and family members lost to violence.

Sherry Wagner-Henry, managing director for University Theatre, said the symposium is scheduled with “The Laramie Project,” a play about the community reaction in Laramie, Wyo., after the death of Shepard’s son, Matthew Shepard.

The final three performances of the play are today, Saturday and Sunday.