Texas university officials pull the plug on student radio station

Rice University administrators shut down the student-controlled radio station Nov. 30 after two student disc jockeys protested a new policy requiring the station to broadcast more athletic events by playing music over the second half of a women’s basketball game.

Programming for KTRU 91.7 FM was replaced by satellite content from the World Radio Network two days after student DJs Viki Keener and Patrick Glauthier simultaneously aired music and the second half of the school’s women’s basketball game to protest continued pressure from the athletic department and the administration to air more athletic events.

Terry Shepard, the university’s vice president for public affairs, said the disruption of the broadcast was the cause of the shutdown, but it was not aimed at punishing the students. He said the step was taken because administrators did not feel there was proper leadership in place after the student station manager took no action against the DJs for their protest.

Dennis Lee, KTRU’s operations manager and hip-hop director, said the school’s administration was strong-arming the station into playing more athletic events and that station staff members would fight for control over programming.

“Athletics programming is essentially being mandated by the administration of Rice University, with little to no regard for the traditions or opinions of KTRU,” Lee said in a press release. “As one of the last bastions of free radio, we will continue to fight for what we believe.”

Shepard said this was not a First Amendment issue. He said students are allowed to say whatever they want on Rice University’s campus, but cannot necessarily do it on a radio station owned by the university.

“The issue here isn’t about free speech,” Shepard said. It is “about using someone else’s radio transmitter.”

Students and administrators came to an agreement Dec. 7, and the station resumed broadcasting the following afternoon.

The agreement calls for the radio station to be accountable to the student body and administration. The undergraduate student body will elect the student station manager, and a new committee, made up of the station manager, three students, three faculty members and an alumnus, will be created to approve changes in the station’s programming.