The NEIU radio station, WZRD 88.3 FM, remained closed to the public and on auto-play during the first week of Fall 2012 classes as a result of a June 29, 2012 Office of Student Leadership Development (SLD) memo detailing the decision to suspend normal usage. The Wizards, the student organization of DJs that maintain the radio station and provide content, were also deactivated as part of that decision amid serious allegations.
Members of WZRD spent time since the deactivation was handed down attempting to address the problem by appealing to the Stu- dent Government Association (SGA) and the Council of Clubs (CoC) for clarification on the decision, and what, if any, official charges were being brought against the organization, with little success. According to NEIU SGA by-laws, the CoC “shall be the main body advocating for and creating club life on campus,” and both the CoC and SLD offices have the authority to conduct reviews of an organization’s operation. However, according to multiple WZRD sources, members attending several SGA and CoC summer meetings received little in- formation about the situation, leaving the student organization feeling “tried, convicted, and sentenced without due process or appeal.” “The SLD essentially took control of the radio station away from the students two weeks before this de- activation by dictating that students who had not completed training would be going on the air to do a DJ personality show, totally going against our anonymity policy, free- form format and bylaws,” WZRD member Peter Enger said.
Initially facing allegations of FCC violations, mismanagement, misappropriations of funds, dis- crimination/intimidation com- plaints, and equipment damage, the new Student Organization Review Process issued to WZRD members has since downgraded many of the issues the Charter Rules & Regulations Committee will be looking into. The current points of concern are membership advancement, in- consistency in applying constitution and by-laws, new member se- lection process, verbal altercation between members and misuse of funds.
These new allegations were listed in an unsigned memo lacking university letterhead distributed at a recent SGA meeting outlining the structure and procedure of the official review process, information that had been unavailable for the previous six weeks. The memo, described as “transparent and inclusive” by Student Affairs Vice President Frank Ross, names the Charter, Rules & Regulations (CRR) subcommittee (stemming from the CoC) as the reviewing body for the WZRD organization. The first phase of the process begins with individual interviews through Sept. 14, 2012. The second and third phases begin with presentation of the facts gathered by the subcommittee, giving WZRD members a chance to respond to the allegations, and de- liberation by the CRR before a final recommendation of action is given to the director of SLD. No specific dates are quoted for phase two and three, but the whole process is expected to conclude by Nov. 2, 2012, a date confirmed by Ross. “Being part of an [organization] can give you a real-life experience outside of classroom learning,” Ross said.
The lateness and length of the projected review process will leave the 100-watt radio station, intended to give NEIU students hands-on experience in broadcasting media, inaccessible to students for the majority of the Fall 2012 semester. This raises serious questions about the legality and propriety of denying access to a main component of student media education funded by Student Activity fees.
Accompanying the previous memo was a second, similarly un- signed memo that proposed an overall review of “viable options for WZRD 88.3 as a student radio station.” The memo said that a committee of students, faculty and alumni will analyze the Spring SGA Election survey results about WZRD, current trends and re- search on college radio stations, and the evidence from the CRR deliberation about the WZRD organization, as well as conduct student focus groups. The real purpose behind this second review commit- tee is unclear, as is the need for what the memo describes as “feasible options” for WZRD. Multiple WZRD members ex- pressed concerns over the radio station retaining its particular style of freeform format that prizes music education and exposure to the unusual, in the wake of the deactivation and in light of these two review processes. In the club charter’s statement of purpose, WZRD seeks to ‘be a unique forum for the widest spectrum of music and information
programming.’ “The Wizard handbook given to every new member says that no Wizard should play just one kind of music, but at least three different genres. Some people don’t like that and want to do their own thing. ” WZRD member Ari Fishman said of the allegations that certain types of music were barred from the station. “We’re here to expose people to the unusual, unknown and underground of music, not to play Top 40 music. There are other stations people can go to for that.”
Describing the WZRD situation Ross said no decisions had been made yet. Ross explained that he had heard their concerns first-hand and wanted to “make it happen” for the organization. “I don’t want a long process, I want them back up and running.”