College Board Chairman Admits to Using N-Word

The longtime chairman of the Roger Williams University board admitted Monday to using the N-word during a board meeting, saying it "kind of slipped out."

"I apologized for that," Ralph Papitto said in an interview on WPRO-AM. "What else can I do? Kill myself?"

Papitto, 80, who stepped down earlier this month after nearly 40 years on the board, admitted he had used the racial slur at a May meeting of the school's board of trustees. He had been discussing the difficulty of finding blacks and other minorities to serve on the 16-member board, which at the time included 14 white men and two women.

Barbara Roberts, then a board member, said Papitto became irate when he discussed pressures to make the board more diverse, at one point using the slur to refer to black candidates to the board.

She said he then told the board he knew he couldn't say that because of Don Imus, the radio host who was fired after referring to Rutgers University women's basketball team members as "nappy-headed hos."

"There was, like, this complete and utter silence, and I was shocked beyond belief and very angry," Roberts said.

Papitto, who has given the school at least $7 million and whose name is on the only law school in Rhode Island, said he had never used the term before.

"The first time I heard it was on television or rap music or something," he told WPRO.

Papitto said Monday that his decision to step down from the board was based on his age and his desire to spend more time with his family. He denied a newspaper report that he was forced out over the racial epithet.

Several board members said they were forced out after calling for Papitto's resignation after the incident. At least one has called for his name to be removed from the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law.

A man who answered the phone at a home listing for Papitto hung up on an Associated Press reporter Monday morning. Law School Dean David Logan and a university spokeswoman did not immediately return phone messages.

Roger Williams University in Bristol has roughly 3,880 undergraduate students. The law school was founded in 1993 and later named for Papitto, the founder of the Fortune 500 company Nortek Inc.