URI forms Ad Hoc Gravesite Task Force
KINGSTON, RI -- September 30, 1999 -- The University of Rhode Island
has announced the formation of a twelve-member Ad Hoc Gravesite Task Force.
The task force will advise the University and the Convocation Center Building
Committee as to the best way to proceed to address a series of critical
issues with regard to the discovery of a Colonial-era cemetery in the vicinity
of the new Convocation Center project.
Judith Swift, faculty assistant to the provost and vice president for
academic affairs and professor of theater, will chair the task force. Swift
was appointed by Kathleen Mallon, URI's director of strategic planning and
executive assistant to the president.
"It is important that we treat this discovery with respect for both
the historic significance of the site and the wishes of the relatives of
those who are buried on the property," said Mallon. "At the same
time we want to do all that we can to move forward with the construction
of the Convocation Center according to the current schedule which projects
groundbreaking to take place in the spring of 2000," added Mallon,
who also chairs the Convocation Center Building Committee.
"We will do everything in our power to accommodate the descendants
and ensure that the scholarly and historic preservation issues are also
handled appropriately, " said Swift, who served as chair of the Rhode
Island Committee for the Humanities for three years and was on its board
for six years. "Of course it goes without saying that we intend to
follow all legal and procedural requirements throughout the process,"
said Swift. She added that the process will require the concerted and coordinated
attention of a small group of internal as well as external constituents
The charge to the task force, which held its first meeting on Tuesday,
September 28, is to forward a recommendation regarding options for dealing
with the cemetery on the Convocation Center site. Options might include
moving the entire cemetery, leaving the site intact or relocating a small
number of graves. The pros and cons of each of the options will be reviewed
by the task force and forwarded to the University administration.
At its first meeting, members of the task force reported on the current
archaeological findings and conjectural boundaries of the gravesite, identified
additional information that would assist in the process, discussed the role
of the Narragansett Tribe in the process, reported on the current Convocation
Center site activity, and discussed the status of the cemetery ordinance
being written by the Town of South Kingstown.
"I believe we were able to reach an agreement to work cooperatively
to resolve this issue, given all cultural viewpoints and legal parameters,"
A final report is expected to be delivered by mid-October by the Public
Archaeology Laboratory, a draft ordinance is being distributed to members
of the task force, and the University has begun the process to advertise
for input from persons who may be identified as descendants of those buried
on the site.
Members of the Ad Hoc Gravesite Task Force are:
John Brown, Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
James Garman, Ph.D., senior archaeologist, The Public Archaeology Laboratory,
Inc. Pawtucket, RI
Ray Nickerson, principal planner, Town of South Kingstown
Paul Robinson, state archaeologist, Rhode Island Historic Preservation
and Heritage Commission
Nat Nazareth, former president and current trustee of the URI Foundation
and a proprietor/partner with the Providence Casket Co.
Sylvia Spears Peters, representative of the URI Native American Committee
and a lecturer in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Ronald J. Onorato, URI honors professor of art, whose art historical
research focus is American gravestones and public sculpture
Paul Abell, URI professor emeritus of chemistry
Lou Saccoccio, URI general counsel
Linda Acciardo, URI director of communications
Harry Davis, URI assistant director of facilities and operations
Larry Bacher, program manager for the Convocation Center project, and
Mallon will serve ex-officio.
For More Information: Linda A. Acciardo (401) 874-2116