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WMUA polka lovers keep fighting; UMass admin sticks to script

WMUAThe great WMUA-FM Polka War continued through last week. Supporters of polka programming at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus station kept protesting reductions in the genre. But the U.Mass administration is sticking to its guns. They’ll be more student involvement at the station, its principals insist, and that means less polka music on WMUA.

“Polka programming will continue to (be) aired but for fewer hours, providing additional air time for student shows,” UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski told the MassLive online newspaper in an email message.

As I write this update, over 2,100 people have signed a petition demanding the preservation of WMUA’s historic levels of polkatude: 12 hours over the weekend, which the administration says will now be cut to four hours on Sunday.

Folks are even posting op-eds on the question. Here is a commentary on the MassLive Republican:

“I can’t argue that a student radio station should reflect and feature student programming.

Polka has nothing to do with UMass, and you might as well drop the petition you are launching, folks. Anybody paying even passing attention knows your demographic group will complain and make a little noise, and then you will go away. Am I right?”

Nope, you are wrong, insists a WMUA pro-polka partisan:

“Not only will we be missing the wonderful music we grew up with, we’re going to miss the wonderful volunteers that made it possible. These people are the most dedicated, unselfish, hardworking and passionate people I’ve ever known. For 52 weekends a year, no matter what the weather or road conditions, they arrive at the station by 5:30 a.m. asking for nothing more than appreciating the music they provide.”

For some background, here’s Jennifer Waits’ mid-December summary of the decision making process that led to the current standoff:

“At University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s station WMUA, after a community DJ host was fired, there was much discussion about tension at the station between community and student DJs, which even led to a petition to the administration about the situation. Just this week it was reported that after a more thorough investigation, WMUA will become more student-focused and the number of hours devoted to community DJ-hosted programs will be reduced to a maximum of 24 hours per week. According to a statement on the University of Massachusetts, Amherst website, “Following a comprehensive assessment of campus radio station WMUA, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has adopted a series of measures designed to strengthen the station’s historic purpose as a student-focused and managed enterprise with an educational mission.”

In case you are wondering, I have no position on this matter, although I do happen to be very fond of polka music. For further historical background, here’s a YouTube about the genre as served up at WMUA.

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