In a society ravaged by political rivalry, especially following last year’s contentious presidential election, one UNO organization has taken it upon themselves to attempt to restore decency to the national discourse.
At the start of the semester, six students in UNO’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) – Annaliese McCain, Emily Ngyuen, Courtney Kilroy, Kathryn O’Connor, Miranda McCord and Rose McCaffery – were brought together by faculty advisor Karen Weber and asked to contribute to the 2021 Bateman Competition.
As an annual case study, the Bateman Competition gives PRSSA chapters a client and a problem to solve every year – however, in 2021, the client was the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) itself.
Chapters from across the nation were subsequently tasked with creating a campaign to encourage quality, integrity and inclusiveness in society, but the specifics were left up to the students. Titled “Humility not Hostility,” the UNO PRSSA Bateman Team’s campaign set off with a goal to develop proactive strategies to raise the standards of civility and effectiveness in public discourse and demonstrate through interactive dialogue how audiences can better listen and understand different points of view.
“I was inspired to take part in this campaign because I have seen how incivility has torn people apart, especially in the last year,” Media Relations Director Kathryn O’Connor said. “Civility is important to me because there is so much division in this world. I would love to see us set aside our differences and come together.”
Each student involved took on a particular role in spreading the team’s message. Aside from O’Connor’s contributions, McCain served as Project Director, Ngyuen was the team’s Research Director, Kilroy was the Creative Director, McCord was Social Media Director, McCaffery was the Event Director.
To start, the team created a survey to collect data on participants’ understandings, perceptions and practices of civility, assessing where public perception was on the matter at the moment. From there, they additionally invited classmates and members of the community to take a pledge they had designed as a useful guide to respond to and take action against uncivil discourse.
Included in the pledge were promises to:
- Show respect for the time and expression all discussion members deserve
- Find common ground with others
- Listen to and seek to understand others in conversations
- Voice passions with consideration for the humanity of all people
- Seek humility when others challenge your ideas
- Be empathetic to others in the hope they will reciprocate.
However, the team’s most notable achievement was their creation of an interactive card game that could be used to build civil discussions.
“The purpose of our card game was to help create a safe space for everyone to have a voice without silencing the voices of marginalized individuals,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor stressed how the team hopes their campaign can redefine civility throughout all of their actions.
“In the past, civility has been used as an excuse to silence the voices of marginalized people,” O’Connor said. “We hope to change that and use it as a tool to help make all voices heard.”
Though recent times have been tumultuous, O’Connor has faith for the future.
“I look forward to the better days ahead,” O’Connor said. “If we as a society can come together and have these hard conversations that include and respect everyone, we can enact change as a result.”