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College Radio DJ at WVBU Expelled Over Racially Charged Broadcast

Three Bucknell University students were expelled this week as a result of racially charged content during a college radio show on WVBU-FM. The students were initially suspended and then ultimately expelled at Bucknell for making racist slurs. Earlier this week the Daily Item reported,

A Bucknell University student disc jockey and his two student guests have been temporarily suspended and face possible expulsion after making racial slurs and promoting racial violence in a live student-radio broadcast March 20. The students, whose identities Bucknell would not release, were talking on ‘Happy Times,’ a WVBU-FM show that airs on Friday nights.”

The Associated Press offered more details yesterday, stating that three students were eventually expelled over the incident. According to the article,

Bucknell University president John Bravman met with about 1,000 students and staff about the matter on Tuesday, a day after sending a late-night email revealing the expulsions. ‘Their conduct is an affront to our values, damaging to our community and in clear violation of our community standards,’ he wrote to students, faculty and staff on Monday. Bravman did not identify the students but shared their comments from a March 20 WVBU-FM broadcast in ‘the interest of transparency and candor.’ He said one of the students used the N-word, a second said ‘black people should be dead’ and the third said ‘lynch ’em.’ Bucknell spokesman Andy Hirsch said an inmate a nearby prison heard the comments and reported them to a prisoner advocacy group, the Lewisburg Prison Project. The group then contacted a university faculty member, who alerted the radio station’s adviser.”

There have certainly been other incidents where students lost their radio shows due to offensive on-air actions (Sean Hannity was kicked off college radio station KCSB for “discriminatory statements” and Howard Stern lost his college radio show at WTBU because of “lurid” content and there are many other examples involving less prominent DJs), but I’m not sure that I’ve heard of college radio DJs getting expelled because of the content of their radio shows before. To get some perspective, I talked to college media expert Dan Reimold of College Media Matters. Reimold remarked that,

The comments the students reportedly made on air are deeply offensive. Expulsion is such a gigantic punishment though, I’m concerned by the lack of context presented with the words themselves. Students across all campus media platforms repeatedly push boundaries and take stabs at humor which at times provoke anger and cross a line. The best recourse I’ve seen when that occurs is greater education, a campus dialogue aimed at healing and a chance for those in the hot seat to learn from their mistakes and subsequently become better people on and off the air.

Trevor Noah, the newly-named host of ‘The Daily Show,’ is under fire at the moment for past tweets and other social media postings that many find offensive. The tweet he has since posted in his own defense, ‘To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.’

If the comments the Bucknell students made are indicative of their show’s content or tone overall or in line with their larger racial viewpoints, that is one thing. But if they were simply a ‘a handful of jokes that didn’t land,’ ones they would be willing to publicly apologize for and learn from, I’m disappointed in any educational institution not willing to provide that type of enlightenment — and a second chance.”

This is a troubling situation all around and the on-air commentary was unquestionably horrific. If you were an administrator at Bucknell, what would you have done? Have you had incidents like this at your radio station? If so, how did you handle them?

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4 Responses to College Radio DJ at WVBU Expelled Over Racially Charged Broadcast

  1. Glenn R. Sirkis April 1, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    There was an different kind of incident at WREK, the student owned and operated FM station at Georgia Tech, in 1974.

    WREK was mostly automated in that era, but there were a few DJ hosted programs. One such show started at midnight Saturday night (or Sunday morning actually.). The host played both sides of Franklyn Ajaye’s just released comedy album “I’m a Comedian, Seriously.” This album includes several of the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on the Radio.” A listener complained to the FCC and this resulted in a FCC citation for indecency.

    Needless to say, this scared station management (students). After listening to the album in horror (though it is very funny), the DJ involved was fired. There certainly was no thought of trying to get him expelled however. We apologized profusely to the FCC, telling them that the DJ had been fired and promising that something like this would never happen again. The FCC drop the matter and that was the end of it.

    We almost immediately had second thoughts on how we had handled the incident. We could have argued that it was a black DJ, a black comedian, and that the album spoke to the “black experience.” Since it had aired in the midnight to 6:00 AM time-period (then called the “Experimental Period”), no real harm had been done.

    But this was less then a year after WBAI raised the ire of the FCC when it aired George Carlin’s album “Occupation: Foole” (the case went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1978) and our first reaction was not to put the station license at-risk or do anything to jeopardize its student-managed independence.

  2. Mike Janssen April 3, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    I’m not sure how you could argue that their comments are NOT “in line with their larger racial viewpoints.” They were just saying that stuff to be “funny” and don’t really think those things? How could you even know? If they were asked, maybe they’d say, “I’m not racist.” But yes, they are!

  3. Tim April 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Have you seen the new Will Ferrel comedy Get Hard? Have you seen the Justin Bieber roast? Have you ever watched an episode of South Park where racial jokes are made? Have you listened to Chris Rock performing racial humor?

    Are Will Ferrel, Justin Bieber, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, or Chris Rock considered racist? It is ignorant of you to believe that you cannot argue that comments regarding race are always in line with larger racial viewpoints. I do not know the context of the comments made, but if they were a ‘handful of jokes that didn’t land,’ then these students are no different than the media surrounding them.

  4. Matt April 6, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    American universities – where free speech goes to die.

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