Mar 022011
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

Movies like “Tropic Thunder” and “The Hangover” try to amuse audiences with the use of this politically incorrect word, even skewering it simply for comedic effect.

But according to CSU’s Pi Kappa Phi, Zeta Phi chapter, no matter how you say it, the word still hurts.

On Wednesday, Pi Kappa Phi teamed up with the Special Olympics and Best Buddies international as part of its philanthropy for the third annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, a worldwide effort aimed at eliminating the “R word,” retarded, from people’s everyday language.

“We just want people to be aware that their words are hurtful,” said event organizer and Special Olympics coach Garrett Ostedgaard.

Standing on scaffolding in the center of the Lory Student Center Plaza on Wednesday, they shouted for students to sign a large banner with the words “I Pledge” in red spray paint.

“I just think students with special needs have a perspective on line that I can really appreciate,” said sophomore wildlife biology major Ethan Gordon.

The 24-hour campaign asks the community to stop using the word due to its hurtful effects on people with intellectual disabilities and those who know them.

Last year 2,000 people signed the pledge. Pi Kappa Phi wants to increase that number to 2,500 pledges by 8 a.m. Thursday.

Once a medical term, the “R word” has come to replace something that is stupid or ridiculous, which is why groups like Best Buddies and Special Olympics are rallying for its removal from regular speech.

Northeast Director of Special Olympics Andy Gonzales has worked with special needs athletes for 11 years and has seen the impact that the word has on its players.

Once, when his team defeated a non-special needs team at a softball game, the word was thrown around by the other team in retaliation.

“You just see the slump of their shoulders and how hurt they were by it,” Gonzales said.

Gordon works with SLiCE’s TGIF program, where college students work with people with special needs in the Fort Collins community. He says the use of the “R word” is a problem on campus.

Some students refused to sign the pledge, claiming that it goes against their First Amendment rights. Others shouted the word as they passed.

Gonzales and Ostedgaard admit to using the word in their youth but have come to realize its impact.

“I’ve learned now it’s very hurtful for (people with special needs),” Ostedgaard said. “ It’s come to the point that, when I hear it, I cringe.”

Staff writer Rachel Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

How to pledge:

  • Go to www.r-word.org and make the pledge to end the use of the “r word”.
  • Organizations involved include Special Olympics, Best Buddies, Ability Beyond Disability, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Autism Speaks, and more than 180 other organizations.
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