November 27, 2014  

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Southern Miss Gulf Coast to Take Part in University-Wide Civility Awareness Campaign

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LONG BEACH, Miss. – In an effort to raise awareness about civility within the social media universe, The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast is participating in a university-wide campaign where significant steps have been taken to point out the dangers of social media use and provide guidelines for students and employees.

Between Oct. 22-27, Southern Miss will launch a social media blitz designed to raise awareness about social network conduct through a series of promotions and activities under the banner “Civility.”

“Our students and staff are right to be targeting the importance of social media behaviors,” said Southern Miss President Martha Saunders. “I am encouraged by their initiative and concern for civil discourse.”

Nearly two years ago a committee comprised of Southern Miss administrators, faculty, staff and students began working on guidelines to address social media use on campus. Dr. Rebecca Woodrick, director of equal employment and affirmative action at Southern Miss, said the university community saw the need to be proactive in addressing social media use.

“Our goals are to increase awareness of best ways to use social media, among both our employees and our students, while avoiding some obvious pitfalls,” said Woodrick, who served as the committee’s chairperson. “Chief among these would be the ease with which communications in cyberspace can be misunderstood or misused and the tendency to believe that what we say and do is shared only with our ‘friends.’ ”

Some highlights of the guidelines include:

  • Emphasizing, with both students and employees, that cyberspace = public space
  • Emphasizing that civility should be practiced in cyberspace communication, just as in face-to-face communication
  • Reminding employees and students that there are no longer any geographical boundaries, therefore how an employee or student presents himself/herself in social media can have a positive or negative impact on his/her reputation

Woodrick notes that the guidelines pertain to employees only. However, she emphasizes that students can benefit from the proposed standards by adopting the principles set forth.

Various promotional events will be held on the Hattiesburg campus, Gulf Park in Long Beach and Gulf Coast Student Service Center in Gulfport. The following events will take place at Southern Miss Gulf Coast:

Oct. 22 – 27: Civility posters distributed on the Gulf Park campus and Gulf Coast Student Service Center.

Oct. 24 – 27: Civility push card distribution in Fleming Education Center from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Oct. 27: T-shirt distribution in the Fleming Education Center at the Gulf Park campus.

Oct. 27: Lunch and Learn at the Gulf Park campus sponsored by the Department of Student Services and Campus Security. Guest speaker Tammy Morris Rutland will discuss topics associated with cyber bullying and cybercrime.

“Spreading awareness about civility in social media is important,” said Dr. Frances Lucas, vice president and campus executive officer at Southern Miss Gulf Coast. “By launching this campaign at Southern Miss, we’re sending a significant message to our students, employees, and local communities across south Mississippi. We hope our message carries on and makes a positive difference in peoples’ lives.”

University employees will have full access to the guidelines via an online training module in early November. Instructors will have guidelines for teaching the use of social media by the start of the 2012 Spring Semester.