WT students working to increase civility in public discourse

By Chip Chandler

A group of West Texas A&M University students is working to increase civility in public discourse.

Four WT students are actively finding ways to turn the temperature down in potentially contentious conversations through their “Hear Me Out” campaign, part of the 2021 Public Relations Student Society of America Bateman Competition.

The Bateman Competition is PRSSA’s national case study competition where students create and implement a full public relations campaign. This year, the goal is to help the Public Relations Society of America to reverse the corrosion of civility in American life and encourage respectful conversations in public discourse in all corners of society.

The WT team will promote its campaign on WT’s campus and in the Amarillo and Canyon communities. Team members are Sophia Britto, sophomore digital communication and media major from Amarillo; Jordan Conde, freshman digital communications and media major from Dumas; Mallory Grimm, junior public relations and advertising major from Amarillo; and Laura Putts, senior public relations and advertising major from Amarillo.

“ ‘Hear Me Out’ is an effort to encourage meaningful, thoughtful, and respectful conversations about difficult topics. Our mission is to inspire breakthroughs in public discourse by creating a community that listens to another without ridicule, teaching others how to navigate difficult conversations and promoting civility and understanding in our discussions,” the team’s mission statement reads.

“We believe the first step is to listen and to simply hear each other out, ” Grimm said. “We tend to spend more time talking than we do listening. The audiences we’ve spoken to in person and over Zoom said they’ve learned more on how to have a civil discussion.”

The campaign will run Feb. 8 to March 8, and the team will submit their entry by March 29. Final scores will be calculated in mid-April. The group will give presentations in person and digitally and has more than six planned events this month.

The competition was established in 1973 as the National Case Study Competition and was then renamed to honor the late J. Carroll Bateman, one of PRSSA's founders. 

To hear the steps to improve conversations when people disagree, contact Kim Bruce at kbruce@wtamu.edu.