Five Long Beach State students are taking the word civility and turning it into a way of living through their monthlong public relations campaign in Long Beach.
CivilityLB, ran by Samantha Troisi, David Rowe, Shani Crooks, Giselle Ormeno and Alyssa Canales, first launched to the public on Feb. 8, complete with a social media presence, website and events all designed to get the community invested in implementing civility in their lives and creating a healthier society.
It’s part of the 2021 Bateman Case Study competition, a national competition by the Public Relations Society of America where participants are assigned to clients to organize and run a campaign for. Troisi, a fourth-year public relations major, said that this year, the client is the Public Relations Society of America and is focusing on creating more civility in life and in discourse.
While all participants are working towards similar goals, all the work of CivilityLB has been brainstormed and implemented by the team members.
According to Rowe, a fourth-year communications major and public relations minor, the team honed in on the word civility for their campaign’s name after bringing up words it encompassed, like respect and connection.
“We’ve been asking people throughout our campaign, ‘What does civility mean to you?’ and I think everyone has a unique answer,” Rowe said. “That’s one of the benefits of having this as our name is people do take different things from it.”
Since Feb. 8, CivilityLB has hosted virtual roundtables, cooking shows to share food and discuss relevant topics and partnered with local coffee shops to do a pay it forward day, where a customer would buy someone a coffee, who would then do the same for another.
CivilityLB will also be releasing a children’s book about concepts of civility for the Long Beach community.
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Troisi said that the team had done a lot of research to determine how people from different groups are impacted by incivility and realized it starts at an early age, therefore the team knew they needed to focus on the youth just as much as anyone else.
“So we’re CivilityLB but our tagline is ‘from another point of view’ and we really find it important to have different perspectives in terms of diversity and what people look like, where they come from, who they are,” Troisi said, explaining that their book illustrator, who is a CSULB alumna, took that idea “to heart.”
The book will be released digitally, but the team will have a few printed copies to be donated to local elementary schools, according to Troisi.
“It’s really to promote civility but on [a] kids’ level,” Troisi said. “Respect, kindness, how to talk to each other, why it’s so important to be mindful of others…the concept of respecting one another and being kind is, I think, the root of growing up into a civil member of society.”
The team has also been encouraging members in the community to take their civility pledge, either as an individual or an organization. The pledges include multiple bullet points that touch on themes including being kind online and in person, attempting to understand others’ point of views and more.
According to Rowe, as of Feb. 28, the campaign has had a total of 52 pledges. Their next event will be on Mar. 6, where the team is hosting a socially distanced caravan on Ocean Boulevard open for anyone to join.
But for all the interest CivilityLB has received, it hasn’t all been positive.
In a Long Beach Post article, CivilityLB experienced a Zoom bombing at one of its virtual events where a man exposed himself and masturbated on camera. In the article, team member Crooks said she had also been subjected to racial slurs.
While the Zoom experience was something the team could have never expected, Rowe explained how the team acted swiftly, more concerned for their audience than anything.
Afterwards, the experience served as a reminder that this was why their work was needed. Rowe said that despite finding that most people agree that civility is important, that showed there are still people who would for whatever reason want to disrupt efforts to improve civility.
“I think it strengthened our resolve to see through to our mission,” Rowe said, explaining how the positive response from the community reassured the team that people do want to see civility being implemented in their lives. “We all sort of decided to take a step back and realize that, number one, our mission is valid and important and, number two, we’re here to serve the people who want this and we shouldn’t be fazed by the people who don’t want it.”
Troisi, who moderated at that particular virtual event, also emphasized that the experience showed how important their work was and explained that while their work was not about allowing “bad behavior,” it was about not shying away from different perspectives, debates and discussion.
“This is a message that really is important and that matters and after the last several years is not going away anytime soon and we need to have these conversations,” Troisi said.
Building CivilityLB has been a “labor of love,” as Troisi called it. The team has dedicated hours to meetings, at times just discussing the meaning of civility and what topics under it that are important to them. Due to the competitions’ rules though, the campaign will only run until Mar. 8.
While CivilityLB’s website and social media will remain live, the team at CivilityLB will enter the next step into the competition, where judges will determine three finalists to present their campaigns virtually.
Still, CivilityLB’s work will remain accessible and the lessons they’ve shared with the community will hopefully linger, like the idea of compromise, which Rowe said is something they’ve found a lot of people wanting.
Likewise, he said he hopes that organizations who took the civility pledge do follow the entirety of what the pledge asks of them and at the individual level, people are more “open minded and be more optimistic about our ability to get along.”
For Troisi, she said she learned that it is just about starting these conversations, which is the hardest part. But it’s something CivilityLB did, within the community and within CSULB.
“When I ask people at our events or in our panels, ‘What can I do or what can we do?’ They say talk about it, have the conversation if you see something that isn’t civil or isn’t right,” Troisi said. “Say something, have that talk with someone.”
Troisi explained that having effective conversations can change people’s point of view, and the way we progress together is through communication, respect and finding middle ground with one another.
“I think we started the goal, it’s kind of like the snowball and it’s just gonna get bigger as it rolls down the hill without us,” Troisi said. “The conversations now about what we’re doing and what’s happened have gone beyond us, and I think that’s always the goal with anything like this.”
Visit CivilityLB’s website to take the civility pledge, learn more about upcoming events including the caravan or access resources to promote civility.