Posted November 21, 2017
A five-student team of public relations majors has created a campaign for EdVenture Partner's Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism (P2P) competition.
Tasked with combatting a local issue related to extremism, the group developed Think Twice UofSC, a digital media campaign directed at countering racial extremism before it starts. Their goal is to increase awareness about how subtle acts of discrimination, which often go unaddressed, enable extremist environments and hate speech to prosper. The campaign hopes to counter extremist speech before it starts by asking students to pledge to think twice before they speak, act or post.
The team members, pictured above left to right, are Laura Simpson, Amanda Budd, Katy Nystrom, Victoria Milligan and Vanessa Ruiz. They are students in Instructor Ernie Grigg's campaigns competitions class.
"The team did extensive research and put together a creative campaign that takes a fresh approach to the issue," says Grigg. "No one came into this thinking they were going to solve the world’s problems, but they understand that big changes start with little actions. Lots of people — both on and off campus — are keeping track of this project and want to see it succeed."
On a campus with almost 1,800 international students from 95 different counties, the University of South Carolina has high rankings when it comes to accommodating those from various backgrounds. While the environment is welcoming to all, a few students are taking the initiative to stop subtle acts of discrimination that often go unnoticed.
"Three years ago, I was live-tweeting my eventful Latin-American Christmas Eve to my cousins who could not celebrate the holiday with us that evening, and the majority of my tweets were in 'Spanglish,' ” says Vanessa Ruiz, a senior public relations student. “A friend at the time replied to my tweets demanding that I ‘speak the language of the country I reside in’ and threatened to ‘call the immigration office and get my a** deported back to Tijuana.’ I was born in America. Therefore, I am an American citizen.”
Statements like these, referred to as microaggressions, taking broad swipes at marginalized or minority groups often go unaddressed. The downside to overlooking this type of speech is that it enables extremist environments to fester, resulting in a much larger problem. After surveying nearly 500 students at the University of South Carolina and discovering that 78 percent of them have heard another person use a microaggression, a group of public relations students created ‘Think Twice UofSC’ to challenge everyone to think about what they are going to say, and consider how their words can affect those around them.
“At a time when the country is feeling really divided, it’s these subtle acts of racism that further that gap,” says senior Katy Nystrom. “I want to do what I can to advance feelings of inclusion on campus, and in the country as a whole.”
The digital media campaign calls for those who visit their website to sign a pledge agreeing to think twice before they speak, act or post. In addition to taking the pledge, students, faculty and staff can participate in a photo challenge and share their own experiences of dealing with microaggressions. One of the first Gamecocks to take the pledge and participate in the photo challenge? President Harris Pastides.
“Thinking twice before you say something is such an important thing to do,” says senior Amanda Budd. “Although you may think something is humorous, it can have a negative impact on someone else. I really hope that our message reminds people of the power of their words and helps us make a stronger Carolina community for all.”