Mar 032010
Authors: Sara Michael

Pi Kappa Phi is pulling an all-nighter.

From 8 a.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. today, the fraternity is “spreading the word to end the word” on prejudice against mental disabilities.

Their campaign to remove the “r-word” –– retard or retarded –– from everyday speech began from a 15-foot scaffold Wednesday morning with megaphone-armed brothers shouting their cause to passersby on the Lory Student Center Plaza.

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the fraternity brothers had more 1,000 pledges on their banner, and an increasingly large smattering of people wandering campus wearing “I pledge to end the ‘r-word’” stickers as a symbol of their dedication.

“We keep having to run back to Kinkos to get more stickers,” said Pi Kappa Phi Chaplain Eli Armstrong, laughing.

The fraternity founded its philanthropy, Push America, in 1977. Push America’s goals include “instilling lifelong service” in its members and “enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.”

“People don’t realize how bad, how offensive, the r-word is,” said Adam Hickman, Pi Kappa Phi member and English major.

Fellow fratter and construction management major Brian Roling agreed.

“These are degrading words,” he said. “Today is a national event to say otherwise.”

Movies like The Hangover, or the Black Eyed Pea’s song “Let’s Get Retarded,” discourage the movement with their “demeaning matter,” Armstrong said.

“But it really only takes a few people to facilitate change,” he said.

Today is a national event for Pi Kappa Phi, with support from organizations like the Special Olympic Committee and Best Buddies.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin is running a similar campaign to end derogatory language, which she calls a “slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities.”

But despite the alteration to the Plaza skyline and the shouts of “end the r-word,” some CSU students just don’t care.

“Frankly, I don’t give a damn,” junior English major Aaron Alloya said as he walked past the display. “It’s one more thing in the Plaza I don’t need.”

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at

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