University News

Words Matter

March 6, 2012


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MACOMB, IL -- Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. A popular saying that isn't necessarily true, because words that are used carelessly and without thought can cause as much hurt as those sticks and stones. And that's why a group of Western Illinois University students, faculty and staff are taking action.

To raise awareness of the impact of the words we use, a group of WIU graduate students, who were charged with a mission to create a project that would make the world a better place, have created the #MyWordsMatter campaign at WIU. The campaign, which began last semester, is picking up momentum across campus.

According to founding member Jeffry Cape (communication, Cuba, IL), in the group's first meeting last semester to brainstorm a project, another group member used a slang term, and another member spoke up.

"We were just talking. Just brainstorming about a project, and that one slip by someone led to a discussion about how our words do matter and how we can say them without really thinking. Just like that, 'MyWordsMatter' was born," Cape explained.

As part of the # MyWordsMatter campaign, member of the WIU community are asked to sign a pledge to think critically about how their words impact others and to act as advocates for ending derogatory and offensive language.

"We are eight passionate students devoted to building a better on-campus community," said founding member Bob Just (college student personnel, York Beach, ME). "The focus of this campaign is to educate people about the meaning behind the words we use today so people can think about the impact of their words. Our challenge to everyone is 'Think, Choose, Act.' How will you join the campaign and be a catalyst for change to make this world a better place?"

According to AJ Lutz, assistant director of communication and marketing for University Housing and Dining Services, in October, the group distributed a small number of #MyWordsMatter bracelets to kick off the pledge drive, and they hope to distribute more during the spring semester. The campaign caught Lutz's attention, and he decided to become a part of what he calls such "a worthwhile initiative."

"The goal of this campaign is, quite simply, to make the world a better place," Lutz added.

Other founding members include Cedricka Carver (college student personnel, Joliet), Shiori Silver (college student personnel, Painesville, OH), Kristen Wyse (college student personnel, Woodstock), Katie Schoonover (communication, Galesburg), Kristi Manwill (college student personnel, Crystal Lake) and Jaime Vilsack (college student personnel, Fairview, PA).

"'MyWordsMatter was a creation of knowing the power of an individual's words," said Carver. "We need to do all we can to eliminate what one may think is harmless, but is so destructible to others."

The group is gathering feedback from across campus to further expand #MyWordsMatter this semester, Lutz added. Individuals or organizations interested in becoming involved in the campaign are encouraged to attend the group's meetings, which are held at 2 p.m. on Fridays in the Multicultural Center Board Room. For more information, visit wiu.edu/mywordsmatter or email the group at mywordsmatter@wiu.edu. The campaign's Twitter feed is mywordsmatter11.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations