LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Students at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast want their campus to be a place no one is disrespected because of their gender or sexual orientation. During
, several events are planned to promote treating people with dignity and to discourage discrimination.
A picture is worth a thousand words. But the USM students, faculty and staff who posed for a photo on Tuesday only had one word in mind: Equality. The Smile for Equality event was a show of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.
Daryl Coludrovich is a USM student majoring in Geography.
"It feels great to know that we are not alone," said Coludrovich. "That all members of the LGBT community are here together and that we're enjoying the fellowship and the sunshine of the event."
USM officials said Civility Week is about learning to appreciate people's differences. Two more events are planned. One will focus on gender equality and the other on the importance of being respectful while using social media.
"At the end of the day the most important aspect of all of this is to promote respect," said USM Gulf Coast Director of Student Affairs Christy Bjork-Elias. "To promote respect on campus. To promote respect in our community. To promote respect on line."
Bjork-Elias said, "It does promote unity within the student body. Civility is part of growth, and it's part of respecting others that are different from you, whatever your opinions may be regardless of the situation. It's really about developing the whole student here at the university and this is part of that development."
Zachary Stewart is a USM Student and also part of an organization called Alliance for Equality.
"This is an environment where lots of different people are coming together from different walks of life," Stewart said. "For that interaction to be made possible there needs to be mutual respect, understanding and sort of a framework of how people interact in a fair manner."
Students said the best way to understanding one another better is to spend time together, and these events provide that opportunity.
Coludrovich said, "It's not good to isolate. We have to interact. We have to communicate in a positive way. If we join together and keep it really positive and move towards common goals of acceptance and respect, that's the most important thing. "
"Diversity, it's not just about gay rights or women's rights. It's about the entire community coming together," said Coludrovich.
Students hope the seeds of tolerance being planted now will continue to bear the fruit once their college days are over. USM also recognized several students with the Golden Pride Award for their efforts to promote tolerance.
Learn more about Civility Week: