Project Pay Attention is an initiative that asks people to pay closer attention to their actions and the words they use, either verbally, in writing, or via social media. When you sign on for Project Pay Attention, you pledge to speak up for others, choose your words wisely, track your online behavior, inquire, challenge yourself, and spread the word. By educating people, Project Pay Attention proposes to change the way our society thinks about language and to ultimately reduce the negative effects of ignorance and intolerance.
In Fall 2010, when so many young people took their own lives, the media reported that bullying and social combat based on perceived sexual orientation and gender non-conformity had caused these individuals to kill themselves. Regardless of how the young people actually identified, they were often verbally and physically attacked at school and relentlessly tormented via social media on the internet.
The suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who was spied on with a webcam by his roommate, Dharun Ravi, became a rallying cry for a number of movements, including Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” video project. Thousands of people have uploaded videos to testify that it does in fact get better, that the bullying stops, and the pain of youth can be overcome.
By fostering an understanding that our language choices and our actions have power, Project Pay Attention asks people of all ages and backgrounds to think carefully about what we do, what we say, and how we say it. It recognizes that educating people about the power of language is an active way of shifting our daily lexicon so that disrespectful and hurtful language choices can be avoided. And it embraces the notion that people can shift their behavior and ultimately create a more respectful society for the future.
PPA at the UA
The Project Pay Attention initiative began at New York University, when one of their faculty in residence had a program to discuss the suicide of Tyler Clementi and asked residents to sign a pledge to stop bullying. This program grew into the full fledged Project Pay Attention program through the Residence Life department. In bringing this program to the UA, we hope to have our students sign the online pledge, and join our social media websites in a commitment to make our campus a more inclusive place for all. Each student that signs the online pledge will be eligible to receive a PPA packet which includes: 4X6 inch PPA placard with the pledge, magnet, stickers, and wristband. Participants can then display all of their PPA materials to show solidarity and to encourage other students to sign the pledge.