“This is a movement to protect WITR from itself.” So says the description of the Facebook group “Modern Music No More: Save WITR.” WITR has been undergoing major changes since the new executive board (e-board) started this year. Controversy began to snowball when Save WITR published an excerpt from the executive board’s September 27 meeting that read, “The e-board agrees community member interests are not compatible with student interests. The e-Board voted to begin the process of changing the station to an all-student station.” In other words, WITR would be repositioning themselves to prioritize student needs over non-student members.
“At this point, we really need the support of the RIT student body to make sure that WITR doesn't end up in total disarray because, in my opinion, without the continuity provided by the community involvement, the station will simply lose its identity.” — Ron Bauerle
The Save WITR Facebook group, which is controlled by former WITR’s executive board members and RIT alumni, has grown to over 900 members, many posting comments that are against the current executive board’s proposed changes. Many are WITR community members, who are RIT alumni and were part of WITR during their time at school. These community members became a vital part of the station by lending their experience to mentor new DJs or providing help around the station. Some community members were also able to keep their shows after they graduated.
In an interview with WITR’s general manager Greg Keyzer-Andre, a fifth year Information Technology major, he talked about proposed changes and his goal to make WITR a predominantly student-run radio. “Students pay fees and tuition, so they are paying for the station. Community members don’t bring in any money,” Keyzer-Andre commented. “William Santiago’s ‘Dimension Latina’ show is the only community member show that brings in underwriting.”*
In 2009, WITR received a $57,737 budget from RIT, according to WITR’s finance director Ben Isserlis, a third year Computer Science student. This budget comes from student activities fees. Therefore, every student has a right to be part of the WITR — they paid for it.
Community members, however, do not share this right. “Community members look down on students and see them in a ‘Oh, you will be gone in four years type of way,’” said Keyzer-Andre. Keyzer-Andre may be receiving harsh criticism in the WITR community, but “the changes had to be made.”
According to Keyzer-Andre, WITR received an unprecedented amount of student applications this quarter. The station helped train 20 new DJs, all wanting air time. The only way to make more room for them was to reduce community members’ airtime. “We are not getting rid of community members, but they will have to give up some of their time for the students,” Keyzer-Andre reiterated.
On November 17, Carol Reed, WITR’s administrative advisor, held a private WITR community member meeting. There were 23 community members present with 13 former WITR DJs, five of which were former WITR general managers. When asked if they were willing to reduce their time to give more room for students, no one objected.
The next day, Ron Bauerle, 2004 RIT alumnus, host of WITR’s weekday metal show “Sudden Death Overtime” and a group administrator for Save WITR, indicated that not all was settled at the station. Through a message he sent to the group: “The WITR executive board members and RIT students all need to hear our side of the story, and our individual stories. We will need your help in order to help them understand why WITR is important and means so much to so many.”
According to Reed, one of the main catalysts in this issue is a lack of communication from both sides. “I haven’t received one email from anyone in the community about this,” said Keyzer-Andre. However, the group says that the public has not heard anything from the executive board of WITR.
On December 6, there will be another meeting between WITR and the community members. Here, the executive board will reveal proposed changes. Some changes include revising each quarter’s program schedule based on student availability with student shows running for two hours. Reed mentioned that a “menu of options” will be given to the community members; they will be able to pick their role at WITR. Additionally, the station will articulate program standards that will be used to review DJs and evaluate whether their show will be continued in the next quarter.
“People come and go, but WITR is always there.” — Carol Reed
Corrected 12/06/2009: A previous version of this article incorrectly truncated a quote referring to William Santiago’s ‘Dimension Latina’ as being the only community member show that brings in underwriting. Return to corrected text.