Ethics Conference Addresses Tribalism

Modern tribalism and its polarizing effects on society will be the major theme of discussion during the University of Central Oklahoma’s upcoming Media Ethics Conference hosted from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 10 in the Nigh University Center Ballrooms.

This year’s theme, “Modern Tribalism: Polarization and the Social Connect/Disconnect,” will include a panel presentation on polarization and its impact on marginalized communities, a question and answer session on ethics from a global perspective and a keynote presentation on social media and the First Amendment.

“This conference will feature something for every person on campus and in the community,” said Duncan Rowan, conference co-director. “Whether we know it or not, we’re all a part of a tribe, and it’s important to know how all these tribes interact in the age of social media.”

Tools of Polarization and the Impact on Marginalized Communities, the panel presentation, will focus on exploring the effects of social media on groups who are at risk for social marginalization.

“We want to shed light and give people a sense and a want to understand each other,” said Trevor Stone, conference co-director.

Panelists will include students and faculty members of UCO’s diverse student organizations, including the Native American Faculty and Staff Association, the International Student Council and the Student Alliance For Equality.

Olga Kravtsova, project coordinator for the Russian Press Council, will lead the discussion for the second presentation, Ethics from a Russian Perspective. Krastova will discuss how the absence of similar First Amendment protections in Russia impacts the media, according to Stone.

“That kind of changes things, so their media may not contribute the same amount to the tribalism in their country,” Stone said.

Ken Paulson from the national nonprofit First Amendment Center will deliver the conference’s keynote presentation, The First Amendment in Peril? This discussion will focus on the current state of First Amendment protections across the nation.

Sponsored by the Department of Mass Communication, the conference is being organized by students in Endowed Journalism Ethics Chair Joe Hight’s media conference leadership course.

“I think the student leaders greatly enrich the conference in many ways, add their own touches that make it even more special and provide significant promotion and leadership,” Hight said. “It’s important to me that the student leaders have ownership in the conference; that they are empowered to lead it.”

Made up of 18 students, the student committee responsible for organizing the conference covers each major decision from arranging for funding to scheduling the event’s speakers.

“This started as a group of five people who had no experience with conferences prior, and the cool thing with that is Professor Hight wants this to be ours and has really let us make all the decisions,” Stone said.

An early struggle the conference leadership faced was some concern among Native American groups with possible connotations surrounding the term tribalism. While the conference was using it to highlight the ways in which modern society can be divided, Stone said he understood where there could be room for misunderstanding.

“There’s been some concern, as people have associated the term with negative connotations with Native Americans and images such as the [Washington] Redskins and the like,” Stone said. “We’ve had to combat some things like that and let people know that’s not our intention or even what we’re really talking about.”

Hight said that the primary concern expressed had been in relation to the promotion of a separate Mass Communication event where the term tribalism was being used in a negative light.

In response, the conference consulted the Native American Faculty and Staff Association to get a better understanding of the significance of tribes in Native culture, according to Hight.

“It also was exciting to learn that Dr. Mary Carver and David Duty, who teaches Intercultural Communication and Interracial/Interethnic Communication, are coordinating listening sessions based on the theme for the afternoon after the conference,” Hight said.

A reception will be held after the conference from noon to 1 p.m. in the Nigh University Center Grand Ballroom A, where a video on the importance of the First Amendment will also be debuted.

“We’re shooting for somewhere around 250 or 300 people to come, but if only just one person comes, it will honestly be worth it because at least one person got what we were trying to say,” Stone said.

Share This