When you tune in to your favorite college radio station you might be surprised to learn that the people behind the microphones might not actually be college students.
Many college radio stations rely on non-student DJs and it’s not uncommon for some stations to have more DJs from the community than from the college. On the plus side, some community DJs have been on the air for years and years (in some cases decades) and provide a sense of stability to a station’s air sound.
Yet having too many community DJs can also put college radio stations in a precarious situation at some universities, especially in these uncertain economic times. If it appears that an organization isn’t popular with students, the school may question why it is being funded. Some stations, like KSJS at San Jose State require all DJs to be registered in radio classes in order to participate, which has essentially eliminated all but a handful of community DJs because of the expense associated with signing up for classes as a non-student.
WITR at Rochester Institute of Technology also seems to be moving in this direction, having recently reduced the number of non-student DJs on the air. The station is rumored to be shifting to a student-only station. Over 1,000 people have joined a protest group on Facebook called “Modern Music No More: Save WITR!”, which is focused on changes to both music programming and the move towards fewer community DJs. Despite these protests, an article today claims that non-student DJs actually left of their own accord after they were asked to shorten their shifts.
In December, Vanderbilt University station WRVU made the decision to place a cap on the number of non-student DJ shows (it’s now limited to 25 non-student DJs) at their station and as a result of that they eliminated a number of programs hosted by community DJs. The reasoning in part was to make room for more student DJs, but unfortunately some of the eliminated slots (10-hours worth of programming) are still vacant because they aren’t enough students able to fill those shifts.
This week I posted an interview with WRVU’s General Manager Mikil Taylor on Spinning Indie. Mikil was amazingly candid about the station’s decision to eliminate some community DJ shows and gave me a bit of perspective about how everything went down. According to Mikil:
“…at some point we had to face the question as to what was more important: Educating students or providing good non-mainstream music in unfamiliar genres? Considering we are funded mainly by Student Activity Fees and were founded as a learning tool for students, emphasizing students has to be the priority.”
Mikil added that,
“The board wanted to emphasize students, and feared that having over half of the DJs at WRVU be unaffiliated with Vanderbilt was crowding out students. In addition to the crowding out of times, they also felt that potential student DJs were discouraged by the number of older DJs at the station. Considering our funding, they did not want to do anything to discourage student participation.”
I’ve heard this argument before, that stations with schedules dominated by long-time DJs can feel inhospitable to younger DJs, who might sense that it’s next to impossible to get on the air.
Mikil emphasized to me that WRVU still has a good number of community DJs and that they are welcome at the station. He pointed out,
“I think one thing that’s been lost in all this hubub is that there are still 25 fantastic community DJs at WRVU, in addition to the 70 or so students, faculty members, and alumni also doing great shows.”
See my entire interview with Mikil to learn more about this situation at WRVU.
What role do you think non-students should play at a college radio station?