Student-Led Effort Works to Ban the "R-Word"

Social movements are often born on college campuses.

This one is no exception.

Last week, Augustana’s Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) unveiled its campaign to “Ban the R-Word,” an initiative to stop people from using the word “retarded” by banning the word altogether.

In addition to raising awareness about the term’s negative connotations, SCEC, a 40-member student organization comprised mostly of special education majors, is hoping elected officials will pass legislation to formally change the phrase “mental retardation” to “cognitive impairment” on state-issued Special Education teaching certifications.

“The ‘R-Word’ is degrading to people with disabilities, their families, Special Education majors, teachers, friends and countless others,” said senior Katie Anderson, SCEC treasurer. “Unfortunately, we hear it used on our campus as we walk down the hallways, in the Commons over dinner, and even in classroom discussions. There are so many alternative words in our daily language. Please, refrain from using the ‘R-Word.’ It will make a difference!”

Learn more and order a
"Ban the R-Word" t-shirt

To place the campaign front and center, SCEC is selling “Ban the R-Word” t-shirts and has started a Facebook group, “Augie Ban the R-Word Shirts.” From there, Anderson said SCEC leaders will schedule a day for the campus community to wear the shirts as a way to “spread the word to end the word.”

“It’s our job as future educators to advocate for our students and create change,” said senior SCEC member Jaci Mowinkel. “The R-Word is degrading. We have hopes that someone will hear about our cause so we can get state legislation to change the wording from ‘mental retardation’ to ‘cognitive impairment.’" 

Kelly Sprecher
Director of Communications & Media Relations