UPDATE: WMUA denied request for emergency funding at SGA meeting

By Gretchen Keller

(Collegian File Photo)

The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate overwhelmingly denied a request for emergency funding from WMUA General Manager Josh McCawley at a meeting on Monday, after McCawley argued the funding was necessary for the radio station.

WMUA was denied this request previously by the finance committee, who voted not to grant the request, reasoning that the SGA’s guidelines state that a registered student organization (RSO) must exhaust all other sources of funding as well as contribute at least 50 percent of the cost of the expenses the RSO is requesting, according to Chair of the Finance Committee and sophomore political science and legal studies double major Jacob Binnall.

“The mission of WMUA is to allow an opportunity and a space for anyone on campus, be it a student, be it a community member, be it a staff or faculty member, who wants a safe space to express themselves through online media. To allow them opportunity to interact with people of the same beliefs as well, and access to resources to allow them to do that,” McCawley, a senior sports management and political science major, explained during the meeting. “It’s been our mission statement since 1948.”

WMUA requested $740 for funding for an electronic automation system, which would allow DJs to pre-record their shows, thus allowing their voices to continue to be heard while they are attending class. WMUA’s ECSA grant application was declined on appeal, however, based on the premises that ECSA grants cannot be used on equipment or software.

WMUA broadcasts “48/7,” meaning there are two radio station streams to uphold the increasing amounts of DJs that receive air time all hours of the day and night. However, multiple unforeseen costs have hindered the advancements of this 48/7 project, McCawley said.

Initially, staff at WMUA thought the equipment was unnecessary to have in their studio, McCawley said after the meeting; the station has since realized that the new pieces of equipment are necessary in order to complete this project.

The projected total cost of the project is $1,523.16. WMUA has already produced nearly half of this funding independently. The cost for equipment that WMUA has already bought includes $499.99 for the software that provides the second stream, $149.99 for the subscription that allows the stream to be distributed and $133.18 for the equipment needed to update the board for the DJs. This board is crucial for allowing DJs to switch from their radio live stream to an online stream, according to McCawley.

WMUA’s stream runs on roughly an 80-second delay, called the ‘dump system,’ which ensures that no profane content is accidently said or played. Because of the newly added online stream, the dump system that is currently used is not applicable. WMUA requested funding for a new monitoring system that would run independently from the current system. WMUA’s request for these two pieces of equipment totaled $740.00, roughly 48.5 percent of the total project budget.

However, Binnall stated that in relation to the emergency request for $740 that was made before the committee, WMUA had contributed $0 toward the expenses being requested. The other expenses that WMUA cited that they paid for were not counted toward the 50 percent threshold they needed to contribute to receive the grant, because those expenses were not part of their emergency request.

The banning of a long-time radio host in 2015 has led to the downward revenue trend, McCawley said. Initial news of this incident contributed to an ongoing investigation that claimed to have disenfranchised listeners and community members—those outside of the University who contribute to the radio station’s content or funding. Mandated by the University, refunds were offered to listeners who had donated to the WMUA fund in support of the program’s polka programming, equating to the returning of $44,000.

Prior to the incident, WMUA’s polka DJs had been bringing in a fundraising revenue of approximately $50,000 a year. Now, McCawley said WMUA is lucky if they break even.

McCawley mentioned the overwhelming amount of fundraising he has attempted since becoming general manager in order to get the station on the right path once again.

“We’re trying smaller, department-centric fundraisers. In the beginning of the year, we had what we called ‘Sports Week,’ where we bought back our prominent sports alum leading up to the UMass football game against Tennessee…We brought in around $630,” McCawley said.

“We’ve simply been putting band-aids on a 30-year-old issue that is something that is going to bleed out and we are going to need to address,” McCawley explained.

Every day that there is a lack of equipment is a waste of time and money for WMUA, according to McCawley. Running on a 30-year-old inadequate transmitter, WMUA’s funds are deadlocked in a downward spiral.

“It seems like you are having a lot of trouble with this transmitter. Have you thought about putting in a financial request for that?” Senator Nikki Bosco asked during the meeting.

“The issue is the expense required with replacing it,” explained McCawley, “it’s upward of a $40-50,000 issue.” The old transmitter is merely a piece of the overall problem, according to him.

When asked about the future of WMUA’s financial status, Senator Allie McCandless replied, “I think that WMUA’s financial situation is looking pretty dire at the moment, but hopefully they can start to ramp up their fundraising and take advantage of the fundraising that [Student Activities and Involvement] and SGA have for agencies to help them get their finances in order.”

WMUA is home to 96 full time general body members, 14 of which are full-time student staff.

“The SGA is working hard alongside Student Engagement to find other methods of funding for the issue WMUA is facing,” wrote Binnall in an email to the Daily Collegian after the meeting. “We did not deny them and leave them to figure it out. We are very aware of the difficult position that WMUA is facing and we are doing everything we can to assist them, it is just that the Emergency Finance process was not a viable option for this instance.”

Gretchen Keller can be reached at [email protected] Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: Since the article’s original publication, it has been edited to correct inaccuracies regarding why the ECSA grant application was denied, WMUA’s contribution toward the expenses being requested and WMUA’s equipment. It was also edited to correct what was said during the meeting about the banning of the WMUA radio host in 2015 and to add the voice of the SGA finance committee.