Mar 062012
Authors: Bailey Constas

For 24 hours, the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity will be standing on a scaffolding placed in the center of the Plaza for the annual “Spread the Word to End the Word.”

The event, occurring from 8 a.m. on Wednesday until 8 a.m. on Thursday, promotes people to sign a pledge that they will end the use of the word “retard” in a derogatory or slang context.

Students will be able to sign this 10-foot banner for a sticker stating “I pledged” by giving a commitment to end using the r-word in negative terms as well as hear guest speakers on the subject.

“We aren’t striking people down,” said Patrick Sullivan, public relations chair of Pi Kappa Phi. “We can’t change medical terminology but we can change what people in the community say.”

He added that the goal of the event is just to make sure that people are being conscious of their words.

Throughout the past few years, Pi Kappa Phi has seen some controversy towards their event with students saying that using the r-word is freedom of speech.

“It’s freedom of speech, but we’re trying to make people politically correct,” Sullivan said.

The national goal is 100,000 signatures. In the past two years, the Colorado State chapter has gained 2,500 signatures each year, a number the chapter wishes to maintain and even surpass this year.

Pi Kappa Phi and their national outreach project, Push America, in conjunction with the Special Olympics, created this event to promote awareness and change the community’s view on disabled people.

Students also believe in the negative impact words can have on a population.

“I believe words do have power, or energy and they can affect people and people can sense the intention behind the word and a derogatory intention could really get to someone,” sophomore dance major Jeremy Colvard, said.

Scott Lee, historian and head of philanthropy at Pi Kappa Phi, became more invested in philanthropy projects like these because of the good they can do in the community.

“The more and more events I did and got involved with, the more passionate about it I became, the more I realized there’s a lot we can actually do for them on a smaller scale,” Lee said. “This is something that has a big impact.”

Lee explained that him and his brothers weren’t as adamant about not using the r-word until they got involved.

“Once we started working with kids and parents especially, it really effects them a lot, it’s a lot of impact on them,” Lee said. “It’s a much bigger deal than what it appears.”

Push America was founded in 1977 by the fraternity, who made it their philanthropy project with the purpose of, according to the Push America website, “instilling lifelong service in our fraternity members and serving people with disabilities.”

On top of this event, Pi Kappa Phi has other events that also promote their philanthropy project including disability dances that occur every third Friday of the month open to anyone.

The organization also hosts bike rides across America, an event that Sullivan and other members of the Fraternity were involved in last summer.

The event required the members to raise $5,000 and gain support from the community, in which they succeeded.

This push to change terminology has also hit the steps of the capital.

According to, the national website for the Spread the Word to End the Word event, in 2010, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law into effect, which removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces it with the phrasing of “intellectual disability.”

“We think it’s as bad as racial slur…making fun of people with disabilities. They have an ability that people look right past,” Sullivan said. “We want them to see they’re just people just like us. They’re not the r-word as others might call them.”

Collegian writer Bailey Constas can be reached at

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