Chicago university replaces, locks out staff of student radio station

ILLINOIS — Thedisc jockeys at Northeastern Illinois University’s student radio station havebeen locked out of the station and replaced.

Members of the radio club at WZRD 88.3 FM, a publicuniversity radio station north of Chicago, were told at a meeting last Fridaythat the club was now “inactive,” said Dale Lehman, spokesman for the radioclub.

He said Sharron Evans, director of student activities, toldcurrent members they were being locked out of the radio station and made anumber of accusations.

Lehman said the unsubstantiated allegations include missingfiles from the station’s FCC-required public log, financial impropriety andracism.

Lehman denied those allegations and said he thinks theuniversity’s real agenda to change the station’s programming and the content ofwhat the disc jockeys at WZRD put on the air.

“I think it’s the content they’re after,” he said.

The radio club hasn’t been dissolved, Lehman said, but thestation is now being run by a “skeleton crew” of students who are not connectedto club.

He and other students from the radio club have met with thevice president for student life, who Lehman said had delegated power to andassistant to work on the issue.

In a press release, the university saidit is in the process of renewing the broadcast license for WZRD, which is a100-watt, non-commercial, freeform radio station broadcast from NEIU’s maincampus.

According to the university’s statement, therehad been problems within WZRD as a student organization.

“Recently, the lack of a unified approach tomanagement of the station within the student organization informed the decisionto temporarily place the student organization on inactive status,” the releasesaid. “The Division of Student Affairs will work with student leaders and theUniversity community on a process to review the WZRD student organization andto make recommendations for the future of the station.”

During the review process, WZRD will continue to beoperated by students, according to the release.

University spokeswoman Dana Navarro declined furthercomment.

WZRD disc jockeys run on-air programminganonymously and are known collectively as “wizards.” WZRD’s programmingphilosophy is “that if you can hear it on corporate radio stations, wediscourage it on WZRD,” Lehman said.

Cathleen Schandalmeier-Bartels, a former stationmanager and DJ, said in an email that a former “wizard” tuned into WZRD andheard a DJ named Theresa on the air playing mainstream label artists such asThe Police.

“She is NOT a WZRD member,” Schandalmeier-Bartels saidin the email, “and this is worse than being off the air!”

By Taylor Moak, SPLC staff writer