July 18th, 2007


Bob Kerr column from Pro Jo today about Pappito name change...


Change the name for the sake of the students

01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The name of the law school at Roger Williams University has to be changed because the school is in danger of becoming a sad, snickering joke if it isn't.

It might seem unfair to Ralph R. Papitto that one dumb, ugly word spoken at a board of trustees meeting ends his expensive bid for academic immortality.  But it was not just one dumb, ugly word. It was one dumb, ugly word that spilled from years of close, chummy indulgence on the board.

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Already, some law students have circulated a petition demanding that the name of their school be changed. They acted after a story by Jennifer Jordan in Saturday's Journal revealed that Papitto had used the "N-word" during a May meeting of the board of trustees, then tried to get three board members who criticized his behavior and demanded his resignation removed.

Those three members — Dr. Barbara Roberts, Papitto's former cardiologist; philanthropist Joseph Caramadre; and Sally Lapides, owner of Residential Properties — were removed from the board, and last week Roberts and Caramadre confirmed to Jordan what had happened at that meeting. It was a rare look inside what has been a very closed part of university operations.

Papitto declined to discuss with Jordan what had happened at the meeting, saying it was a private matter. But after the story broke, he headed for the refuge of talk radio, where he made matters worse.

On the air, Papitto said he had never before used the word at the center of the controversy. Actually, he said he "never, never, never" used it. He said it just slipped out, that he never even knew he said it.

Actually, it's difficult to imagine that word slipping out of any mouth it hadn't slipped out of before. It's a hard, self-exposing kind of word that
seems to require some serious priming before use.

Papitto also said the first time he heard the word was on television — "in rap music or something." He really did. He didn't say, however, how many rap CDs he currently owns.

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Papitto apologizes, asks to have name removed from school

Papitto apologizes for racial slur
ProJo / 04:19 PM EDT on Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Ralph R. Papitto, the former Roger Williams University Board of Trustees chairman who used a racial slur at a board meeting, issued a statement today apologizing and saying he has asked the Board of Trustees to remove his name from the university's law school.

"I deeply regret the pain that this remark has caused those in the African American community and other minorities," Papitto said in the statement. "This remark in no way reflects my deep respect for the African American community and for the many contributions African Americans have made to our society."

Papitto himself did not attend the press conference called for the purpose of delivering the statement. Instead, it was read by his representative, Mike Trainor. Papitto's lawyer, Joseph Cavanaugh, also attended on Papitto's behalf.

Trainor explained that Papitto, 80, is still in recovery from quadruple bypass surgery and is not able to take part in "very stressful situations."

A group of 179 law students, a Roger Williams University professor and, today, the Rhode Island Minority Leadership/Legislative Caucus, have all asked that Papitto's name be removed from the university's law school -- the state's only law school.

In the statement, Papitto says, "A continued public discussion and debate over the name of the law school serves only to further damage the university. Therefore, and as a reflection of the sincerity of my regret and of my deep commitment to Roger Williams University, I have today asked the Board of Trustees to remove my name from the law school."

Papitto's statement also says: "I also wish to state that this is a truly isolated incident. I flatly repudiate allegations that this sort of comment in any way characterizes my conversational traits or behavior."

He added that over the past several days, "I have done much soul searching and reflection. As I have indicated repeatedly, I take full responsibility for this matter and ask for understanding from the community."