Students at the University of St. Thomas – a Catholic diocesan university in St. Paul, Minn. — launched their own version of a campaign by the Special Olympics to encourage people to stop using the word retarded, or the “r-word.”
The student campaign organizers produced a video about their efforts and collected student pledge forms where students promised not to use the word.
Kari Jo Johnson, a St. Thomas senior who helped initiate the campaign, said her brother’s Down syndrome inpacted her in “unspeakable ways.”
“When I saw the campaign that Special Olympics started, I knew my campus, classmates and peers needed to be informed about how this word could actually be stopped,” she told the university’s news service.
John Busch, another university senior and campaign organizer, also has a brother with Down syndrome and is offended when he hears the word retarded. “As a residence-hall adviser, I hear the word on a daily basis and realize how important it is to get students to understand its true meaning,” he said.
The Special Olympics campaign encourages people to make online pledges to stop saying the word and encourage others to stop as well. After a little more than two years, the campaign has received about 100,000 pledges.