Penn State radio station fighting new administration-appointed adviser

PENNSYLVANIA For its student radio station to receive much-needed financial support from the university, administrators at Pennsylvania State University have said they want to appoint a financial adviser — creating a controversy over who controls the student-operated station.

Just weeks after the death of WKPS 90.7 FM Adviser Bob Zimmerman, who normally negotiated with administrators, student managers are waiting to see if the university will renew funding of the station, said WKPS General Manager Brandon Peach.

Prior to 2005, when its funding contract with the university expired, WKPS received $50,000 annually from the university.

Since university funding ceased in 2005, the station has stayed on the air through private underwriting and other fundraising, but mounting operating expenses and the need for new equipment prompted the latest request to the university, Peach said.

Peach said that he was told by Vicky Triponey, vice president for student affairs, that the university would only fund the station if an adviser is appointed to control the station’s spending, which he says would effectively challenge the station’s autonomy.

“We’re not willing to cede our independent voice to the university’s interests,” Peach said.

Peach said that the station is looking for an adviser to replace Zimmerman, who was an influential faculty member and donor to the university. He said Triponey told him regardless of the new adviser student managers choose, the station would not receive university funds without an administration-approved financial supervisor.

Triponey told WKPS managers that the appointed adviser would monitor “quality control” of the station, Peach said.

“If I were to support them with my office’s money, then I need someone to report to me to make sure they are spending that money responsibly,” Triponey told The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper.

Peach said the student radio station is being treated unfairly, as most other student organizations that receive university funds are not required to have a special financial adviser.

“It’s not her job to micromanage how student organizations are spending money,” Peach said. “If they control our finances, they do, in essence, control our programming.”

In addition to a general mix of music chosen by student disc jockeys, WKPS features a community affairs program that has been critical of the university, Peach said.

But Triponey said the adviser would not influence the station’s content.

“You won’t find an adviser anywhere who is going to try to censor content,” Triponey told The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper.

Peach said WKPS requested $35,000 this year to replace aging equipment and help with operating costs.

The University Park Allocation Committee, a committee of 25 administration-appointed and 10 elected students, is currently reviewing the station’s request for funds.

Peach said if WKPS does not receive the university funding, station managers would consult with alumni for help and begin other fundraising efforts. He said he would rather see the station fold than employ an administration-mandated adviser.

“I would sooner beg for money on the street than cave in to the university’s proposal,” Peach said. “We are going to try and remain a free voice in what is becoming a very oppressive university.”

Triponey could not be reached for comment.

By Jared Taylor, SPLC staff writer