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KRUI student radio getting the shaft

BY GUEST OPINION | SEPTEMBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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I’ve been with KRUI for more than four years now, and I have the pleasure of serving as general manager, a position I will relinquish in a month because of increased time constraints. At KRUI, we work hard every day to maintain a professional and fun environment for our staff and a high-quality station for our listeners — and I think we do it damn well.

We just finished one of the most successful rounds of hiring we’ve ever had, and listenership is improving, too, a tough feat for a terrestrial radio station in the digital age. But one thing that’s not improving is the university’s attitude toward student organizations, and its frustrating policies that make all aspects of running a student organization at Iowa unnecessarily difficult.

Bureaucracy is rampant at the University of Iowa, and the UI Student Government isn’t helping.

Trivial matters such as printing 100 posters or buying a new audio cord require three signatures and a day turnaround. There are hegemonic rules such as “no student organization can use a non-university printing vendor” or “all invoice purchases must be made through UI-approved vendors.”

Student organizations are required to use OrgSync.com (undoubtedly so that administrators can keep a close eye on us), an elegiac system reminiscent of Facebook circa 2006. While OrgSync may or may not be useful for most student organizations, the application and its methodology simply does not work for sprawling organizations such as KRUI, with 12 different departments and 300 staff members.

Let’s run down the last year at KRUI. We developed an industry-standard website completely in-house. We threw a launch party for our new station image featuring Dan Deacon and didn’t pay a cent for it. We launched an entire new image for the station, centered on a new logo designed by UI art students. We established and continued collaborations with five of the leading student organizations on campus — Dance Marathon, Relay for Life, SCOPE, Bijou, and Student Video Productions. We launched KRUI Cares, a philanthropic effort to get KRUI staff involved with such volunteer programs as Habitat for Humanity. We created KRUI Underground, a series of free and open-to-the-public performances downtown in Public Space One. Where was our recognition for these efforts from the university?

You might have missed the esteemed Hawkeye Awards last April, but KRUI didn’t. We sent two of our best directors to attend the affair of the season, and they were let down when it was announced that KRUI/SCOPE was, in fact, not the collaboration of the year (our only nomination). I wasn’t surprised myself; it’s been the same old story since I arrived at KRUI four years ago, and awards don’t matter anyway.

Except that they do. UISG just announced a rewards program for student groups that involves a Harry Potter-esque “points” system earned throughout the year. Points are accrued based on a series of categories UISG has arbitrarily set — things like “attending the Student Leadership Institute” and “having a float in the Homecoming Parade.” And lo and behold, another category is “winning a Hawkeye Award.” The winner of this puerile competition will be blessed with $500, presumably originating from the likely mythical $30,000 UISG contingency fund, made up of funds allocated to student organizations that don’t get spent by the end of the previous fiscal year.

Incidentally, we took a stab at receiving funding from that pool ourselves.

Last spring, we applied for a significant increase to our budget. This request was backed by a document outlining our need for more funding, in which we made all of the points outlined above and more; we attempted to make the case that our organization has doubled in membership over the past three years, and as a result, we need funding to back that growth up. Our request was not heard, and we’re still not sure if student government even read the document. We appealed to both UISG and the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students. In the former case, our request for an allocation from the contingency fund was hammered down by a room full of green UISG senators eager to wield their unblemished, proverbial mallets.

In the case of the Executive Council, the absurd point was made that if we got rid of our salaries for paid positions, we could make up the funding difference. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to hear this idea come from a body of volunteers, but it comes from a completely ignorant view of KRUI.

Our salary directors work incredibly hard to keep KRUI running and make less than $4 per hour for what they do. Without salaries, most of our directors could not afford the time commitment that KRUI requires — I know I couldn’t. Some weeks, each director spends in excess of 30 hours working for the station, making sure all get the best possible experience they can at KRUI.

To suggest that our directors should not be paid at all is insulting, and demonstrates that student government has absolutely no understanding of how KRUI operates.

But it’s not all bad. We were granted incredible state-of-the-art facilities by the university seven years ago, and I’d also be remised if I didn’t mention our amazing Center for Student Involvement and Leadership adviser, Kelly Soukup, who fights for us every day — but it’s usually like trying to get the IRS to change a policy. After a while, any gallant effort we make to effect change is subsumed by university bureaucracy and the “higher-ups.” And who has the time for it, anyway? We’re all full-time students, on top of everything.

I’m just a curmudgeon at the end of his tenure, and I’ll be gone and out of the way soon enough. But the fact remains that something needs to change at this university, and students aren’t the ones to do it, administrators are.

Dolan Murphy is a UI student and the KRUI general manager.


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