WMUA community members express shock, concern over restructuring of station

By Stuart Foster

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

Non-student community members of the WMUA radio station have called for an investigation into the University of Massachusetts’ Chancellor and Vice Chancellor’s office in response to the University’s announcement of the radio station’s restructuring.

During a news conference in the basement of the Amherst Senior Center Wednesday attended by five WMUA community members, non-student DJ Louise Dunphy called on Massachusetts Sen. Stan Rosenberg and UMass president Marty Meehan to conduct an investigation of the Chancellor’s office “to determine why there is a total absence of moral leadership.”

Dunphy said that there has been an ongoing correspondence between Rosenberg and the community members of WMUA over this issue.

“UMass is no longer the great university I graduated from in 1976,” said Dunphy, who has been involved with WMUA for 10 years. “I will no longer support my alma mater until this lack of moral leadership has been corrected.”

Dunphy expressed concern over the timing of the announcement, a lack of leadership from UMass administration and for the direction of the station in the future.

“There’s a lot of things here that need to be investigated,” she said.

Yesterday, administrators at UMass announced that a large restructuring of WMUA would take place, limiting the programming hours of non-students to 24 hours a week and taking away the ability of non-students to vote on station matters and eliminating the current station manual. These changes are expected to go into effect at the beginning of the spring semester.

At a Tuesday press conference, UMass Associate Chancellor Susan Pearson said that said an external review team had found that most college radio stations limited the broadcasting of non-students to 24 hours a week, in order to provide more educational opportunities about broadcasting to students.

Community member and non-student DJ Al Sax said that the greater amount of non-student programming at WMUA has elevated the UMass radio station above most other college stations.

“We are above average because of the fact that we have community hours,” Sax said.

Sax disagreed with the viewpoint that the amount of non-student programming at WMUA, which has typically been more than 24 hours a week, closes opportunities for student education, saying that he always specified he would be willing to work with student DJs on his applications for programming slots.

WMUA General Manager Andrew DesRochers said Tuesday that the high amount of broadcasting slots taken by community members made it difficult for students to become involved with WMUA, as new broadcasters would likely receive graveyard shifts after midnight. DesRochers said that limiting the hours of non-student programming could open up more reasonable shifts for students who want to join the station.

Sax said that he felt the restructuring hurt the station by limiting the input and contributions of community members. While he said that some of the changes, such as the implementation of a full-time adviser for WMUA, have been advocated by community members for a long time, he thought that the lack of correspondence between the WMUA community members and the UMass Administration over the restructuring was problematic.

“I feel like what we’re talking about is a statement to the community members,” Sax said. “We are disappointed by the process through which these decisions were made.”

Tensions between the WMUA student leadership and community members of the station have risen since Max Shea, a non-student who hosted a show on WMUA, was removed from the radio station and ordered by the UMass Police Department not to enter the University grounds over concerns that he had violated the harassment policies of the station.

Dunphy said that the way in which WMUA student leadership removed Shea from the station was illegal and said that “files were removed illegally from a faculty members’ desk, photocopied and carried around.”

However, Dunphy said she suspected that the restructuring of WMUA did not occur as a result of community members vocally opposing the behavior of WMUA student leadership and that the process was in motion before these disagreements began.

Dunphy also questioned whether she would be able to continue working for WMUA after the restructuring, saying that “it will be very difficult to continue under these new auspices.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.