Roger Williams U Gets into the Censorship Game? (UPDATED)

First it was the URI College Republicans, now a couple conservative college radio hosts have been “fired” from WQRI, the Roger Williams University student radio station. Their offense? Repeating the Don Imus “nappy headed ho” phrase on the air while discussing the incident itself. Call it second-hand censorship.
Now, I believe that because RWU is a private institution, 1st Amendment issues are not necessarily applicable, as they are in the URI case. However, given the “mission” of free and open discussion that most liberal arts schools claim to promote (though RWU’s stated mission is not quite so explicit), there can be little doubt that ideological based censorship lay behind this action. That being said, RWU is proud to claim that it upholds the ideals of it’s namesake, explaining:

The University has dedicated itself to the ideals advocated by Roger Williams himself: education, freedom and tolerance. Through his scholarship in language, theology and law, Williams’ life reflected the value of learning and teaching. The University honors his legacy by modeling a community in which diverse people and diverse ideas are valued, intellectual achievement is celebrated and civic responsibility is expected.

Well, apparently not all diversity–like intellectual or political–is equal. The students weren’t being intolerant by repeating the phrase that set off a media controversy, but Roger Williams University certainly appears to be.
If they haven’t already, the students should contact FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to help them with their case. They’ve certainly helped the URI Republicans (even if the Student Senate still refuses to budge–more on that here).
FYI, Dan Yorke is promoting an interview with the students this afternoon.
UPDATE: First, I appended (in the extended entry) the press release that the hosts of the conservative talk show “Morning Again”, Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, issued. Second, apparently they were directed to not use the term at all and then used it 30 times in a 25 minute period. So, there are some management issues here, too. However, it also appears as if the station administration hasn’t been able to get their story straight. In short, it looks like Peloso and Porter purposefully provoked the situation…but is that cause for firing, when the usual action would be a suspension? Or did they cross a line and deserve what they got? More to come.
UPDATE II: Alex Kuffner of the Projo reports on the story here.

Here is a press release issued by Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again”:
Vice President of Roger Williams University practicing censorship and depriving students their freedom of speech! Student Radio Program Director suspends Conservative Hosts!
As of 5:15pm April 24, 2007 student lead radio hosts Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again” on 88.3 WQRI at Roger Williams University have been suspended indefinitely for their coverage of the recent Don Imus Firing. They received the word of the suspension from WQRI program director Mike Martelli who has been heavily influenced by the Vice President of the University, John King. King contacted Martelli last week in a feeble attempt to have the show pulled when the dual hosts covered the news worthy item on a special Sunday edition of their show. King said the wording “Nappy Headed Hoe’s” was distasteful for the radio even though the hosts weren’t using the phrases in a derogatory inflammatory way, rather reporting the news as it was current. This morning’s edition of the show started out as normal, with the two leading into the now current news of Kings attempt to un-justfully censor the radio show. This morning’s show has been recorded for further press releases and on request, although the quality is not the best due to the technology in the studio, but it is more than understandable. Martellis order to have the two pulled from their morning routine comes only after King was asked to appear on the show and defend his stances on the issue; King not only refused, but subsequently Martelli Has ordered the “Morning Again” radio show pulled until further notice. When asked who made the complaints about this mornings show, Martelli responded only with “That’s not for you to know, you work for me, not the other way around.” For further questions or comment feel free to contact show host Dana Peloso who also serves as the Chapter Chairman of the College Republicans at Roger Williams University at 617-785-1732 or via Email

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17 years ago

It’s gotten ridiculous. This morning on SCORE 790, Gresh and Zo played the clip of Imus’ offending utterance for gratuitous purposes (during their moaning and whining about the Rutgers women’s hoop coach getting a contract extension). I haven’t heard the RWU hosts, but am willing to bet the sports talk shots took the cheaper shot.

T. Shevlin
17 years ago

It will be interesting to see if the recent dismissals and suspensions from the traditional airwaves will lead to further growth of mediums such as satellite or internet radio.
Is this the next growth industry for the ‘New Media’?

Mike Martelli
Mike Martelli
17 years ago

As the Program Director of WQRI it is my responsibility to determine what content is inappropriate to be aired on the station. After much discussion with the entire air staff I have come to the conclusion that the infamous phrase, “nappy headed ho” should not be repeated over our airwaves. I have given the air staff a lot of freedom with the content of their shows. However, when Dee Jays have pushed the envelope sometimes I have to bring them back to a reasonable level. At the air staff meeting we discussed the First Amendment issues regarding the Imus phrase. It was at this meeting, which took place on Wednesday April 18th, we discussed whether or not the air staff felt as if they would be censored if I asked them not to repeat the Imus phrase. Mr. Peloso and Mr. Porter were not in attendance. The consensus from the air staff was that there was no problem to the ban. I had to call a special meeting with Jon Porter and Dana Peloso on Monday the 23rd in which I passed on the order. We were all in agreement that the phrase should not be said. I don’t think that the phrase needed to be said again, especially since the Imus incident had taken place more than 2 weeks prior and was no longer newsworthy. I also felt that phrase could be offensive to some and with WQRI’s FCC license up for renewal I did not want to risk offending the community. We are a music station and we have spent lots of time trying to build up a reputable image with the community and have successfully done so. The issue here is that the College Republicans have failed to comply with direct orders and station policy. My decision… Read more »

Dana Peloso
Dana Peloso
17 years ago

Hello All,
Mike Martellis previous posting is a great example of “cut and paste” feature of our computers these days. Its unfortunate that his responses have become completely pre-written and prescribed for these types of responses. He continues to reiterate lies though and that too is unfortunate. Mike says that the Vice President had no hand in the actions of the radio station. This is a lie. Mike and the radio staff alike as well as VP King admit that he went to the GM of the station with the complaint about the content of our show. The WQRI hand book clearly states that the GM is a liaison between the administration and the WQRI staff. That being said, I think its clear that not only did he have a hand in our firing but he played an integral role of the fall out of this matter. We have appealed this to the WQRI e-board on the grounds that Mikes firing of us is in direct violation with their own constitution and hand book. A country is only as strong as its constitution and likewise its obvious that this club too is in that position. With the E-boards direct disregard for their own constitution (not to mention our nations) it just shows that they are an arbitrary dysfunctional group who refuses to abide by their own agreed upon set of rules that they prescribe the different radio personalities.
I have no problem procuring copies of our radio show that day and will gladly meet and answer any questions anyone has. This has been a direct violation of our constitutional rights and its sad that Mike puts him self above those rights.
Dana Peloso

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