College Radio Cuts: Syracuse University Student DJs Walk Out, 1983

At Syracuse University in 1983, student managers walked out of WAER-FM to protest the implementation of news, information and jazz over the former “new wave” format. These power struggles arose from questions about “who shall control” signals, “the students or the university.” The professional station manager planned to hire four more staffers to qualify for CPB funding, even though it was not clear how much the station could obtain. Syracuse’s administration had hired him to professionalize the station, and he insisted that “the radio station cannot allow itself to be dictated to by the student.” The students had won a previous contest over the station’s format but would not prevail in this case.

Source: “Entire student management staff of SU’s WAER now departed,” Syracuse Herald-Journal, April 25, 1983. See WAER Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries, Syracuse University, New York.

College Radio Cuts: Professionalism in Oklahoma, 1980s

Oklahoma’s college radio stations offered a microcosm of national trends in the 1980s. The state’s ten noncommercial FM stations—one reporter called them “towers of strength” thanks to increased wattages—left the amateur “sandbox” behind. With powerful stations emerging, including the mammoth 100,000 watts of KCSU at Central State University, nearly every Sooner could tune in to a noncommercial, college-owned outlet for jazz, classical, news and information. Universities expanded beyond the “usual” elitist, highbrow academy-affiliated audience with “culturally uplifting” fare that still included rock music and blocks of freeform. Proponents trumpeted a kind of “sonic idealism” regarding programming, particularly programs that highlighted experimental music and multi-cultural voices. But observers found that these cultural programs did not translate into larger audiences. It was nationally syndicated news and information shows that ballooned listener rates. A new model emerged. 

KGOU in Oklahoma occupied a spot on the commercial dial but maintained a noncommercial business model. In 1983, a new, primarily classical and news format drew donations and corporate underwriting. This was a reversal from 1981, when the station, loaded with $200,000 of debt, offered only thirteen hours of classical music per week, the rest dedicated to rock—leading OU’s president to label KGOU “purely parochial and patently pedestrian.” Administrative governance meant OU provided 75 percent of KGOU’s funding, but self-sufficiency increased as its reputation improved. While depending on some sixty student volunteers, a staff limited to six full-time employees, and seven part-time students, some receiving work-study funding, KGOU kept operations lean while pumping out quality programming. Journalism and Mass Communications school faculty spearheaded a committee to review the station, and despite a picket and protests by students who wanted to maintain control, KGOU joined the NPR network in 1982. 

Champions of this new model saw it as the true meaning of educational radio, heralding the format’s “sophistication.” Stations expanded listeners, and students retained hours late at night to play what they wished. “The old format trained DJs,” a journalism professor who served as general manager explained, “but that takes only a week.” Instead, “handling community events, news, a variety of types of broadcasting,” he argued, offered superior education as well as public service. And, administrators celebrated, “KGOU remains essentially a student operation,” providing professional experience. OU could be proud. But that didn’t mean students and communities were always happy.

Source: Jim Killackey, “Campus Radio Stations Have Come a Long Way Since ‘Sandbox’ Days,” Daily Oklahoman, January 16, 1983.

“Sonic idealism” from Chernonsky, “Imagining Listeners through American Experimental Music: NPR’s RadioVisions,” 230, 248.

Chris Casteel, “KGOU Shifts Format,” The Daily Oklahoman, December 27, 1982, archived

Joye R. Swain, “KGOU/FM 106: Carrying on a Tradition,” Sooner Magazine (Spring 1984) Vol. 4, 27–31.

College Radio Cuts: More Women’s Programming at KTRU Rice University, 1970s

Listeners noticed the lack of women on-air, such as at Rice in the 1970s, when women at Jones College, an all-women’s dormitory at the university, complained. “Why aren’t there any girls doing shows in the evenings or nights,” a group asked. “Girls” were relegated to afternoons, “when nobody listens.” “We want to hear a girl on at night. There is one girl on that is really good, but she isn’t on very often. Why?” KTRU volunteers explained that they relied on enthusiasm for membership, and “no more than five females participate.” They cited “the male-female ratio at Rice” rather than any station policy. “We could even use more DJs, be they male, female, bisexual, homosexual, black, brown, frecklefaced, or whatever.” When it came to evening hours, reserved for their “more experienced personnel,” volunteers who were women were new.

The “Jones Girls” didn’t “quite see” the point. “We’re sure that some of the guys who are on at night are beginners, too, and surely a couple of the girls are good enough by now to be on then if the guys are.” But the issue was moot, as by the time of their response, “we have heard some girls on at night.” They hoped KTRU kept it that way.

Source: Undated Letters, KTRU Radio Records, Box 27, Folder 8.

College Radio Cuts: Complaints about “Women’s Programming” at KTRU, Rice University, 1980s

I am making a lot of painful cuts in the book manuscript right now, so I’m archiving them here.

“Dear KTRU,” the letter read. 

“Your station is Houston’s finest and I enjoy it. That said, I must register one complaint. There is far too much time devoted to ‘Women’s Music.’ Why not let DJs play good music and assume some will be written, sung, or played by women? The ‘Women’s Music’ shows are…politically commendable and morally correct, but alas, tedious listening.”

This listener, writing sometime in the mid-1980s, suggested that Rice University’s station program more Black artists if they wanted to “devote air time to a minority group which is otherwise ignored on your station.” A “healthy dose” of “Screamin Jay Hawkins, James Brown, Slim Harpo and Otis Redding would be like a shot of B-12.” Adding “Aretha, Martha Reeves and Mavis Staples would have a veritable blood transfusion.”

Source: Undated letter, KTRU Records, Box 27, Folder 8.

College Radio Cuts: More Georgetown

I am making a lot of painful cuts in the book manuscript right now, so I’m archiving them here.

“The news is strange, and they never play any Springsteen,” read a complaint from a student newspaper reporter at Georgetown University in 1976. WGTB’s troubles amounted to more than ignoring school basketball games and occasionally air dirty words, and they eventually resulted in the Jesuit administration selling the station for a pittance in 1979. The station aired Pacifica-inspired programming, news and information, which included shows dedicated to Washington D.C.’s queer communities and feminist groups. Georgetown leveraged institutional values and culture—and public and university service—to prevent the broadcast of voices seemingly out of keeping with strict Jesuit traditions.

Source: Jim Colaprico, “Sleeman Barred from Station, Claims Wholesale Censorship”; Wayne Saitta, “SAC Proposes Return of GU’s AM Carrier” The Hoya, January 16, 1976,

College Radio Cuts: WGTB and Georgetown Basketball, 1976

I am making a lot of painful cuts in the book manuscript right now, so I’m archiving them here.

At Georgetown University in 1976, WGTB DJs faced an administrative-led Review Board dictate to air sports.

Students had complained that the station didn’t serve their interests. They objected to Pacifica-influenced progressive programming, as well. Thus the Review Board instructed WGTB to cover Georgetown sports, particularly its popular basketball program.

So the DJs programmed more sports: women’s sports.

A Hoya reporter characterized the move, “One small step for man, one giant reprisal for womankind.” Covering basketball games constituted a political act, one way or another.

Source: Mike Perlmuter, “Alternative Move by WGTB Radio” The Hoya, January 23, 1976, p. 16,

What’s in my Bag? Campus Visit Spring 2021 Edition

This video is for Jason Scott Smith!

My planner (Hobonichi A5) and Notebook – find them here

Miloo Ydra Organizer here

Miloo Estia (personal items) here (my color not currently available)

Miloo Rec Double here

Acro 1000 .5 here

Mark+ Highlighters here

What are your favorite tools this spring? What always goes in your bag?

Liner Notes Vol. 1, Track 09 – Karen L. Cox

In this last official entry in the Liner Notes Vol. 1, I talk with historian Karen Cox. Check out her most recent book, No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice, out now.

In this episode, we talk about apps and strategies for organizing archival documents, how to balance the ebb and flow of writing projects, and how to weigh requests for service. Ultimately, it’s all about the content!

Liner Notes Vol. 1, Track 08 – Austin McCoy

Historian Austin McCoy discusses the best music for work, how he incorporates reading into his workflow and research process, and we discuss the various frameworks for thinking, creating new arguments, and writing. Listen in to take an expansive view of the writing process, and for some good musical recommendations.

Albums and artists mentioned in this episode:

Liner Notes Vol. 1, Track 07 – Ellie Shermer

For anyone looking for some strategies regarding color coding, time blocking, and incorporating digital tools, this is the episode for you!

Historian Ellie Shermer, author of Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics and a forthcoming history of the student loan industry and policy, discusses her time management strategies for balancing teaching, research and writing, and all the stuff of life.

I had to use a bit of a different editing tool for this episode, so it is split screen the whole time. I hope it works out!