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Revoking the “R” Word

EWU fraternity joins campaign to end usage of the word "retarded" in everyday speech

Brandon Cole (right), Austin Schultz (middle) and Keith Zimmer (left) of Pi Kappa Phi

Courtesy of Pi Kappa Phi

Brandon Cole (right), Austin Schultz (middle) and Keith Zimmer (left) of Pi Kappa Phi

By Erin Rebar, A&E and Features Editor

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The men of EWU’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity collected around 200 signatures on the backs of t-shirts they wore around campus on April 20.

The shirts were labeled “Spread the Word to End the Word” and supported a relatively new campaign focused on asking students to be more mindful of their vocabulary and to avoid using the word “retarded” in their daily speech. The goal of the campaign, which Pi Kappa Phi participated in for the first time this year, was to ask students to sign t-shirts as a pledge to remove the word from their personal lexicons.

“There are instances where say, in music, saying ritard or ritardando is appropriate, or in other languages such as French, but using it as a negative connotation is something that we are wanting to end,” said Carlos Hernandez, Pi Kappa Phi’s secretary. “When it comes to our normal-day speech, there are so many words in our vocabulary that would be better suited for a situation rather that saying the “r” word. That’s kind of what the campaign is about.”

The campaign fits smoothly into Pi Kappa Phi’s own philanthropy, an organization called Ability Experience that focuses on helping people with disabilities.

“We are the only greek organization in the nation that has their own philanthropy,” said Hernandez. “Through our philanthropy, we make sure that we provide everyone with any type of ability with help they need. We are really about that service to people who can’t provide for themselves in the majority of cases, so that’s also why we did the campaign, because it just goes really well with our own philanthropy. We want to be able to promote more positivity in particular and people’s abilities rather than what they can’t do.”

Collin Jueidi, the chapter’s historian, said he believes that using the “r” word can be derogatory for some members of the population.

“It takes away their individualism and groups them in this category,” said Jueidi. “It kind of just ostracizes them. We don’t think that’s right. We think that everyone is their own individual person and deserves to be treated that way.”

The fraternity is hoping to continue their participation in the campaign in the coming years.

“Who knows what you can do for a person if you stop saying one particular word,” Hernandez said.

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Revoking the “R” Word