Beginning on Monday, November 14 Stonehill's Best Buddies chapter will hold a week-long campaign seeking students to stop using the R-word ("retard"). The campaign is a part of an international campaign called "Spread the Word to End the Word."
Pictured above: Carolyn Berninger '13, Kristen Kelly '13, Greg Szczesuil '14 hold up their pledge signs to end the use of the r-word.
"The R-word is exclusive, offensive, and derogatory," explains Domenique Ciavattone '13, coordinator of Best Buddies, which pairs Stonehill students with persons with IDD to help guide them as they become productive members of mainstream society.
Throughout the week, students and faculty members will be educated on the campaign and learn why the R-word is considered to be hate speech.
They will also have to opportunity to sign the pledge which states: "I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."
Upon signing the pledge they will receive a free bracelet that reads "STONEHILL ENDS THE WORD".
"The wristbands are not merely a gift for signing; they will serve as a reminder to the people wearing them that they have made a commitment and should be mindful of the language they use. It will also allow students and faculty around campus to hold each other accountable for their speech," says Ciavattone.
The week will begin with a Spread the Word to End the Word Kickoff Event on Monday at 8 p.m. in Commons A. There, one of Stonehill's Best Buddies Dan Bivins, age 26, will speak about having Down Syndrome and his experience with the r-word and why a change needs to be made. A short but powerful speech by Soeren Palumbo, a strong advocate for the campaign whose sister has an intellectual disability, will be shown.
Monday's program will end with a discussion by a group of panelists, which include representatives from the student body, the House of Possibilities, Best Buddies Massachusetts, and members of the community that have an intellectual disability. The group will also answer questions from the audience.
"We hope this will set the tone for a week of positive change being made on campus. We want to get as many pledges as possible and let the world know that Stonehill thinks the r-word is not acceptable" says Ciavattone.
Best Buddies will also be collaborating with the Student Government Association Diversity Committee, the DisAbility Enlightenment Project and Autism Speaks U.
The Campaign week will conclude with an arts and crafts celebration day at the House of Possibilities on Friday, November 18 from 11:15 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
About the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign:
Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.
The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities.
The effort is spearheaded by college students Soeren Palumbo (Notre Dame 2011) and Tim Shriver (Yale 2011), and led by young people, Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies participants across the country.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.