Although it has been over a month since KUSF’s airwaves were sold for $3.75 million, members of the college radio station and community continue to rally together to fight for their beloved music and culture outlet.
A mixed group of students, station volunteers and faculty from the Communications Studies and Media Studies department came together to discuss the current state of the sale of KUSF airwaves.
On Jan. 18, the University abruptly shut down the station, giving KUSF staff one hour to halt all broadcasting and to exit the offices. KUSF staff members were told of the sale on that same day. The station continues to broadcast through its website. With much controversy surrounding the method of the transaction, outrage and events like the teach-in followed the closing down of the station.
Student volunteers involved with KUSF in the past and present presented their perspective on the sale of KUSF. Alumna like Jessica Labrador and student Harmony Corlitz expressed the importance of KUSF as an abundant resource for experience in the media world and beyond. For Labrador, KUSF gave her the practical knowledge and skills for real world jobs. A self-proclaimed “shy girl of [her] classes”, Corlitz felt that working at KUSF gave her the confidence she needed to succeed in her future careers.
Though many students identify with the need to save KUSF, USF faculty member Barbara Jasperson pointed out the low turnout of students. “There are about 8,000 students who attend USF, but look around you, there are only about 20 to 25 students here,” she said. The lack of student awareness and support is attributed to many factors.
KUSF Advertising and Marketing Coordinator Miranda Morris connects the timeliness of the station’s sale to the difficulty in raising awareness on the situation. According to Morris, because the deal was done over the winter break, many students were unable to learn about KUSF’s situation and voice their concerns to the university.
Morris believes the unorganized manner of the transaction poses an obstacle in spreading awareness of the issue and gaining more support from students. Regardless of such barriers, Morris was satisfied with the student turnout at KUSF’s first teach-in. “For a Monday, many people stayed for the event. It’s difficult to get everyone together since everyone has a different schedule,” she said.
Media Studies Professor Dorothy Kidd led the teach-in, providing vital information on the status of KUSF. According to Kidd, two petitions to protest the sale of KUSF have been sent to Washington, D.C. for further analysis.
Throughout the teach-in, many KUSF staff and student volunteers emphasized the musical, social and cultural impact the station has had on the community since it began nearly 34 years ago. “I can’t imagine where the community’s voice would go if KUSF did not exist” said KUSF staff member Kenya Lewis. “[The station] has both irreplaceable public value and cultural value.”
As a noncommercial radio station that gave airtime to small, local bands, KUSF was viewed as a great place for musicians to share their art. KUSF music director Irwin Swirnoff saw the on-air station as an “outlet for small and local bands from and outside San Francisco”. Furthermore, Swirnoff dubbed KUSF as a “cultural tour guide of San Francisco,” providing listeners with information regarding music and art events, as well as self-help material like HIV/AIDS testing sites.
The station hosted many shows in various languages, some which gave assistance to immigrants from foreign countries. As a host of Chinese Star Radio, David Pang’s radio show informed Chinese immigrants about issues like education. As the “only Cantonese programming in San Francisco,” Pang said the program is the “voice of the Chinese.” Although his show continues to stream through KUSF’s online format, Pang understands that many of his listeners have no access to the Internet and may feel “lost” trying to tune their dial to get desired updates and information.
Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J.’s claim that KUSF volunteer participation outnumber student participation was raised for discussion. Media Studies professor Bernadette Barker-Plummer said it is important to “remind the University that there isn’t a divide between the community and the students—the students are part of the community.” Barker-Plummer expressed that she is “totally embarrassed with the University’s position on media”. She said KUSF’s sale is “a sad interpretation of media education…I’m disappointed with the short-term thinking of the University.”
Kidd plans to have another KUSF teach-in in the near future. She hopes to hold the next event in Harney Plaza to gain the attention of more students.