University of Mississippi officials Thursday condemned “borderline hate speech” used by a group of freshman athletes during a production of The Laramie Project.

The Daily Mississippian, an Ole Miss student paper, first reported that derogatory slurs were shouted at cast members during Tuesday night's production of the play.

The Laramie Project is based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming. Shepard was beaten, shackled to a post and left to die in a field by two men he had met in a gay bar. He was found comatose, but died five days later on October 12th.

Michael Barnett, assistant chair of theater arts at the school, told USA Today that while the athletes were not the only audience members heckling the cast, they appeared to have incited the incident.

“We don't always have the best audiences, but this was taking it to a new level to be sure,” Barnett said. “There were a lot of athletes there that night, so we're trying to identify who specifically was using hate speech.”

“From what I understand there were others who followed suit, who followed the lead of the students who were heckling some of our female cast members based on their body size. And then there were several incidents from what I understand of using the term 'fag' or 'faggot.' That's when our house manager went to contact athletics.”

A joint statement by the university's chancellor, Dan Jones, and Athletics Director Ross Bjork was issued on Thursday.

“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,” the statement reads in part.

Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze added in a tweet: “We certainly do not condone any actions that offend or hurt people in any way. We are working with all departments involved to find the facts.”