On Wednesday, March 1, students at West Chester University took part in the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to encourage everyone to stop the use of the “R-word,” a word that is offensive, derogatory and discriminatory.
Beginning eight years ago, in February of 2009, the campaign had gathered support from over 200 campuses and organizations. According to the campaign’s website, 692,645 pledges and counting have been made, impacting individuals worldwide.
While many who use this word think it is harmless and simply a way of describing an exam, assignment or a situation, they are unaware of the message that it sends. In our generation the meaning of this word has steered far from reality—it has become a part of daily jargon and most don’t understand the mistake in using it.
Using the “R-word” illustrates an unaccepting attitude, which creates a disconnected community where individuals feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable in their own skin. Pledging to end the use of this word sparks an action to promote using respectful and sensitive language.
Here at West Chester University, Adapted PE, Best Buddies and other campus organizations arranged this event. With tables set up all across campus at locations such as Sykes Student Union, Lawrence Dining Hall and the library, hundreds of student signatures were collected with a promise to join the pledge.
From being a Special Olympics coach to an instructor at Adapted PE, senior Erin Bovelle played a key role in coordinating this event. Her passion to “spread the word to end the word” is driven by her love for the kids she helps.
Bovelle hopes that this campaign will positively impact our campus by “show[ing] individuals with disabilities that as a community we support and respect them, and will fight to put an end to something that is so hurtful to them.”
Sophomores Nicole McCarthy and Kelly Kearney, who both have a dual major in early grades and special education, feel especially connected to this movement and pledged to end the use of the word last year, becoming inspired to volunteer through their sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, to recruit their peers to sign the pledge this year.
“This campaign is a great way to spread the word that we should all be treated equally,” said McCarthy.
Both McCarthy and Kearney are delighted to share that they have not heard the “R-word” on our campus and believe that their efforts helped to make a difference.
They feel that even though this word may not be prominently used on West Chester’s campus, it is important to make the pledge and encourage others to do so. They hope West Chester’s part in this campaign will speak volumes and influence others to designate a day to end the word.
Andie DeChirico is a first-year student majoring in nutrition and dietetics. She can be reached at AD866853@wcupa.edu.