Building new Student Union a bad idea

As you may or may not know, a new building to is being erected on Northern Kentucky University’s campus, called the Student Union Building. It will feature a new Student Government Association hall, a game room and a new dining hall, and the dean’s office. The third floor will be dedicated to student involvement offices.

Also much of what the Student Union Building will house the campus already has. In fact, the University Center has a few things that the new building won’t, including a theater, a bookstore and a small radio station.

That last bit is of particular interest.

Given that to pay for this new facility, our tuition will be increased, as will the price for our parking passes, we may as well get something we really want, something we really need.

That having been said, I’d like to propose an initiative to make our small radio station in the UC a much larger, more widespread station with the construction of a new tower to send out its signal and an additional room to act as the on-air room and media storage for the radio station.

We must take into consideration a few intricacies, of course. For one, every radio station broadcasting on public airwaves is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. That can work to our advantage, however.

When I was a student at the University of Kentucky, I worked as a disc jockey at the university-sponsored station WRFL. Our FCC license stipulated that we could not play music that would be heard on any mainstream radio stations.

In my experience, most NKU students don’t listen to mainstream music anyway, and even those who do undoubtedly appreciate a few bands that aren’t getting the airtime they deserve. For instance, when is the last time you heard Dave Matthews’ “Satellite” on 97.3 FM (Channel Z) or 102.7 (WEBN), or anything by Beck or Radiohead? They play Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins every once in a while and consider themselves alternative?

That’s a nice start, but let’s get on the ball, here. Even rap and hip-hop fans have something to gain from the license we would hope to get. For instance, ever heard of Sound Directions, RJD2 or MF Doom? Those who have probably haven’t heard them on the radio, ever.

The idea behind the new radio station is to provide the student of NKU and those in a wide radius around the university with a more diverse selection of music. The music would vary from everything from Matisyahu to The Decemberists to KMD to Mulatu Astatke to older music like Jimmi Hendrix. We would span across every genre, from the jazziest of jazz to the hardest of hard rock. The station would exist as a beacon of musical diversity.

Each DJ would volunteer their time, and be given two or three hours to play music. And the best part is the station would be student-run, so if students don’t like something about the station, a show students don’t like, or if a band wasn’t getting enough play, they could volunteer to take their own time slot and fix the problem, or talk to the students running the station.

A new station would also provide an outlet for aspiring broadcast journalism majors who couldn’t get time on WNKU because it had no openings. The station could provide news updates throughout the day before and during various DJs’ shows.

But wait, there’s more! The way a radio station gets more music that isn’t provided by its DJs is to run music sponsored and provided by various producers and their companies. When I worked at WRFL, I was treated to the knowledge that we had over 19,000 CDs and 9,000 vinyl records that the station had accumulated since 1988.

Also, consider that most major universities have student-run radio stations, including the University of Cincinnati (Bearcast), the University of Kentucky (WRFL), Xavier University (WVXU, which began as a student-run station), and Indiana University (WIUS). Each of these universities understands what there is to gain from having a student-run station.

Well, NKU has even more to gain.

When prospective students hear this station and learn that they can volunteer, or hear information about the university, the potential will increase to draw them to the university.

It’s pretty easy to see the advantages of a student-run radio station. This could potentially draw more students, it would expose all listeners to newer music, it would provide a non-professional outlet for journalism majors, and it would further help to bring NKU to par with the larger universities in the area. Not to mention, we’re going to be paying for a bunch of things we already have with the construction of the Student Union Building with tuition increases. Why not get something we really want?

Eric Chase