UMass releases external report reviewing WMUA

By Mark Chiarelli

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(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Interview with WMUA General Manager Andrew DesRochers

The University of Massachusetts publicly released an external review of WMUA, the on-campus radio station, one month after recommendations made within the review spurred a restructuring of station guidelines.

The external review, which cost the University $5,000, was conducted by a four-person team led by Gregory Adamo, a journalism professor at Morgan State University. It was conducted over a span of three days in November and came amid of period of conflict at the radio station between student leadership and community members. Changes to station policies came following the preliminary conclusion of the report.

WMUA and UMass announced a significant restructuring in December. The station now limits the amount of community member programming at 24 hours per week, is rewriting its station manual and establishing new guidelines for station membership.

The review recommended UMass “implement a policy concerning community members” — which are non-student members of the station — and gave two the University two options.

The first option recommended that only UMass students could be eligible to work at the station, and that all community on-air slots be removed at a later date. The second option recommended the University limits community programming to 24 hours per week and creates an application process for community members seeking on-air slots.

Student leaders and UMass officials ultimately chose the second option.

The report also recommended UMass hires a full-time adviser or manager for the station with a focus on FCC compliance. Additionally, the review team recommended WMUA institute mandatory leadership training for its student leaders, and wrote mandatory leadership training would help the station to develop a plan to recruit and develop a more diverse student staff. The review said a “lack of a racial and ethnic diversity was noticeable,” but did say the on-air programming has “some sense of diversity.”

The review team commended the support of the station from students, community members and the University. WMUA has also recently undergone studio renovations, and the report said the facility upgrades are a sign the radio station “will continue to operate efficiently.” The report also praised the work of students producing news and sports programming despite not having a full-time adviser for a number of months.

Tensions between community members and student leaders initially arose last April after the removal of long-time host Max Shea and adviser Glenn Siegel. Community members pressed for more details regarding the situation throughout the summer and portions of the fall semester, and were critical of the station’s changes following the December announcement.

The review team referenced the strain between both sides in the report.

“The most pressing concern is the adoption and implementation of the recent changes by the student management team, the reintegration of the community members who remain committed to the station, and the rebuilding and/or restoration of the audience due to the changes,” it said. 

Ultimately, the review team felt the changes, which were billed as re-emphasizing student-first involvement within the station, would restore that balance.

“Our meetings with students tell us that the station is providing a venue to ‘promote student empowerment’ as these students are learning the responsibilities of operating an FCC licensed radio station working to serve the community,” it said.  “At the same time, recent events, particularly issues with relation to community members, have put a significant strain on students and have posed a threat to promoting student development.”

The full report can be viewed below.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

 

WMUA External Review Report