In response to the recent The Torch articles pertaining to the decision to transfer the WUMD license, we believe it is important to clarify factual errors and to add a few additional thoughts.
As we have stated in multiple forums with students, WUMD radio staff, faculty, and community members, the highest priority in decision-making on this issue has been achieving the best long-term outcomes for students.
The process, leading up to the final decision, involved several months of negotiation with Rhode Island Public Radio, discussion with experts in the fields of the broadcast radio industry and communications law, as well as conferral with the University Cabinet, which includes administration, faculty and student leaders.
Regarding campus notification, the timing of the announcement was not chosen by the University.
Information could not be made public until the details were approved by the RIPR Board. This did not happen until December 20. The University’s announcement came as soon as possible after this vote.
In addition to consultation with the Cabinet and Deans and others, the process included a 30- day Federal Communications Commission public comment period that was widely publicized.
Every letter and phone call to the University about this arrangement has been answered individually, with full details about the RIPR alliance.
The process also included documenting various forms of feedback from students and the community. This included:
– recognizing that the SFAC decided a few years ago to eliminate funding for the station due to a lack of student engagement.
– reviewing the 2016 student satisfaction survey that indicated a very small percentage of students are engaged with the station.
– determining that the community at large has declined to provide significant financial support to the station.
Despite those hard facts, this was still not an easy call. All involved recognize that we are giving something of value up. And we certainly place a high value on the volunteer and other in-kind contributions that so many students, staff, faculty, and community members have made to the station.
However, we also very strongly believe that we gain many opportunities for students and the community through this collaboration.
These benefits include:
— $1 million for need-based aid from the license transfer.
We are seeking private donors to match the $1 million to create an even larger endowed fund. We believe this will help between 10-20 students at a time to get their college education.
— $250,000 for an emergency aid fund from the license transfer.
Every year we have a number of students in acute financial emergencies who are forced to step out of school for a semester because they are short $1,000 or $2,000.
Too often, they don’t come back. This endowed fund will be matched with private funding of at least $250,000 and will help another 10-20 students stay in school every year.
— $225,000 from the license transfer will be set aside to endow an annual fund to support new community engagement projects.
— 4 internships per year, a service learning class, a graduate assistantship, etc. for students interested in journalism, and perhaps digital media, marketing, non-profit management, and many other fields. These internships may be located at RIPR in Providence or closer to campus.
— $617,000 in underwriting promotion of UMass Dartmouth on RIPR over 10 years. This is important to our ability to attract new students and community partners.
Meanwhile, it is important to recognize that WUMD will continue to offer cutting edge programming.
Rather than doing so via an FM broadcast signal, it will be doing so entirely online, just like some of the best college radio stations in the United States are now doing.
In fact, the University is committing $25,000 from the license transfer to invest in WUMD technology.
Lastly, we take issue with The Torch’s anonymous and unsubstantiated claim that members of the WUMD staff were threatened if they “make public comment or protest against the sale of the station.”
WUMD staff were told they could not disparage the University, RIPR, or the proposed collaboration on the air, but that they were free to express their personal opinions in any other forum or venue.
This has not in any way stifled vocal protest in a variety of in-person and online forums, and there certainly have been no repercussions for such protest.
The reality is that nearly everybody involved in this conversation, despite their disagreements, has focused on what they honestly believe to be the greater good for the people and communities they care about. They have asked the tough questions, taken time to listen, and demonstrated a lot of empathy for each other.
Dr. David Milstone
Associate Vice Chancellor Student Affairs
Assistant Chancellor for Public Affairs