USF PRSSA Students Host Professional Civility Panel

By Michelle Brooks, Bulls United and PRSSA Member

Bulls United, a group of student leaders from the University of South Florida, hosted a panel as a pilot program for its PRSSA 2021 Bateman Competition campaign submission. The Bateman Competition is an annual case study competition for public relations students across the nation to create a comprehensive communications campaign for a client. The ultimate goal of this specific campaign was to lead a larger national conversation about the need to reverse the corrosion of civility in American life.

As the final implementation of their #PRacticewhatyouPReach social media campaign, Bateman United members invited public relations professionals from the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter to attend a professional civility panel discussing the intersections of civility, diversity, and inclusion. PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity and Inclusion committee chair Kecia Carroll moderated the panel which included Shayla O’Keeffe, global communications program manager at Jabil; and Kevin Bakewell, principal at Bakewell Public Relations LLC and PR4Nonprofits.

In this discussion, civility was defined as ‘formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech and recognized as a vital aspect that coexists with a value for inclusiveness and diversity.

“Civility is about forming an environment that is respectful and equal, and it’s also about standing up against an environment that is disrespectful and unequal,” O’Keeffe said.  “This is how civility in communications is closely tied with current diversity, equity and inclusion work. It’s about actively listening, being an advocate for others, and leading with empathy.”

Civility is often emphasized in professional spaces; but it should be implemented in every aspect of society, speakers said.

“It’s virtually impossible to disconnect the practice of civility from your professional life and personal life,” Bakewell said. “Especially with social media, you have to make it part of everything you do.”

As seen in current events such as protests over racial injustice, the election process, and mask requirements, incivility can be rooted in a lack of understanding differing views. The panelists' solutions included recognizing our biases, being held accountable by people that are different from us, expanding our social groups and social media, and remaining open-minded.

Attendees were given the opportunity to ask the panelists questions and provide their thoughts after the panel discussion. They were also able to sign a pledge against incivility. This pledge promoted the increase of civility through education, workshops, and real-life applications. Visit to learn more about the campaign and take the pledge against incivility.

Bulls United (and PRSSA) members from the University of South Florida include Jose Arroyo, Gabriella Alfonso, Michelle Brooks, Jailyn Hall, Alanna McCary and Brenda Santos.



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