By Lauren Medeiros, Arts and Entertainment Editor
After releasing news to the public that campus radio station 89.3 WUMD will be sold, the University has remained noticeably silent.
On Jan. 4, during student winter break, UMass Dartmouth sent out a single press release to the campus community informing them of the sale. The message was written in a way that suggested the decision had been finalized, as no prior discussion had been publicly offered or brought up.
Students and other members of the community have been left confused, due to the vague nature of language found in this release and because of a lack of subsequent updates on the sale.
The University has neglected to communicate further details with the public or to offer an open forum for discussion of the sale a public asset, a necessity required for legal due process.
The lack of transparency on this major decision rings out loudly, after Interim Chancellor Randy Helm made bold statements to the campus community in previous email communications, discussing a commitment to transparency in both the University’s budgetary processes as well as decisions involving campus finances.
Regarding transparency issues, WUMD’s DJs were finally able to come forward on-air to shine light on another ethically dubious situation surrounding the sale.
Volunteers and employees at the station had been informed, at the threat of immediate termination, that they were unable to make public comment or protest against the sale of the station.
After obtaining information from an attorney about the illegality of such an order, the station has been able to make public comment about the sale, but their manager, a mother and devoted long-time employee, is still barred from speaking despite her First Amendment rights.
The decisions surrounding the sale have taken place behind closed doors throughout the duration of this process, offering no room for public engagement.
After the recent Executive Board meeting for the UMass Faculty Federation on Thursday Feb. 2, The Torch was able to obtain an official statement and an interview from the president, Dr. Susan Krumholz after discussion on the sale took place.
In her statement on behalf of the Board, Krumholz said “we are disturbed by the lack of transparency with which this action was taken, exaggerated as it was by the fact this happened over winter break.”
She also stated in her writing that the attempt at selling the radio station is “just one more move toward privatization of the sort we saw when the campus bookstore was sold; it may bring in resources in the short term, but it is costly to the campus over time.”
When The Torch spoke with Krumholz on the phone following the acquisition of her written statement for the Board, she expressed that “in the long run there is no benefit for us [and the campus].” She said that “it’s a useful link between the campus and the community” and that “it’s a resource we should utilize more.”
She finished off by saying “it’s a shame that they’re trying to sell it. I think it’s crazy.”
Although the university states that they and Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) have “established a collaboration” together, the university is making an attempt to sell their radio license and will no longer broadcast WUMD’s programming on-air with an FM frequency, here or with RIPR.
Documents obtained by The Torch indicate that the university’s radio equipment and broadcasting license will be sold, and even the current WUMD broadcasting location may be maintained for a small monetary stipend so that RIPR may use it as a backup broadcasting facility.
The terms of the sale also state that “RIPR will provide two (2) unpaid internships for qualified UMass Dartmouth students during each of the UMass Dartmouth fall and spring semesters.”
These two internships would require eligible students to travel to Rhode Island rather than a facility on campus. Current students working for WUMD have been able to receive the same experiences, often paid with federal work-study funding.
Having an on-campus radio facility has given students convenient access to hands-on professional broadcast experience that has drawn students to UMass Dartmouth over other universities in the Southcoast, and has for the past 45 years.
Should UMass Dartmouth go through with this sale, this would be the only university in the UMass system without its own radio station.
The deal will remove WUMD’s ability to broadcast on FM radio to their local audience, from Bristol County to as far as Cape Cod. The University has tried to justify the sale by stating that online programming will still be available as a trade-off, but a large number of long-time local listeners may be unable to access the technology, and it would make it more difficult to tune in and listen.
One of the issues facing this sale is the fact that the University has not held a public meeting or forum for discussion on it.
The deadline to make public comments against the sale has not been mentioned or announced, and there is no common consensus as to when the deadline to do that actually is.
There is only one contact provided for questions on the matter, Vice Chancellor John Hoey, who is also a main foreperson in the push for the sale. Attempts to contact other administrators have only resulted in redirection to Mr. Hoey.
State Senator Mark Montigny’s office has been made aware of the sale and is currently looking into it to ensure the process is following proper legal measures. State Senator Michael Rodrigues has also been made aware of the situation.
The offices of U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey have also been contacted, as well as Congressman William Keating, and others.
For students interested in voicing their opinion on the sale, they are urged to send an email to John Hoey at email@example.com or to contact local representative Mark Montigny’s office at (617) 722-1440.
There will also be a Student Government Association on Monday Feb. 13 from 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. in Library room 206. Students wishing to voice their opinion on the sale are urged to come and express their concerns in front of their student representatives.