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Volume 3, Issue 1                                    University of Houston



Agreement returns Rice radio station to students' control

By Ken Fountain
Breaking News Staff

After a week of nearly unprecedented turmoil for the normally tranquil Rice University campus, calm prevailed Friday with an agreement that returned KTRU, the school's radio station, to its student staff.

An agreement reached Friday between members of the KTRU staff and the university's Student Association said the station's staff would be accountable both to Rice, which holds the station's FCC license, and to the student body through the SA.

The agreement alleviated concerns from officials, some student organizations and the editorial staff of the Rice newspaper that the station -- which operates on funds from a student blanket fee -- had operated for years without accountability to anyone.


A paper tacked to a Rice University bulletin board expressed the sentiments of many students when administrators pulled KTRU, the school's student-run radio station, off the air Nov. 30. Rice officials and students have since reached an agreement allowing broadcasting to resume.

Ann Richter/
Breaking News

Although conflicts concerning KTRU had been brewing for several years, the most recent and widely publicized episode began when the Rice Athletic Department requested last month that the station devote more "prime" airtime to athletic events.

The department claimed recent mergers and other changes among Houston's commercial AM radio stations led to difficulty in signing a new contract for Rice sports coverage.

KTRU staff members resisted giving up more evening air time to sports events. The station normally airs an eclectic mix of blues, jazz and avant-garde rock music.

On Nov. 29, Zenaido Camacho, Rice's vice president for student affairs, announced the station would broadcast at most three or four events per week for the next two years.

But the previous night, two KTRU student disc jockeys, Viki Keener and Patrick Glauthier, protested the decision by playing music over the broadcast of a Rice women's basketball team game. Keener later sent a formal apology to the team.

That led Camacho to order Nov. 30 that the station be shut down and made off-limits to students. Regular programming was replaced with broadcasting of the World News Radio satellite radio service.

Reaction to the administration's move was immediate and vehement. A meeting the evening of Nov. 30 drew 350 people, mostly undergraduate students, who listened to Camacho's explanation and cheered when a staff member of the Rice Admission Office, Rosa Guerrero, said she would resign in protest of the administration's actions.

On Dec. 4, the Student Association Senate passed a resolution condemning both the shutdown of the station and the actions of the KTRU student management. Two protests were held that day: one in the campus's Academic Quadrangle, and another that evening in which about 140 people with KTRU bumper stickers over their mouths lined the driveway of Rice President Malcolm Gillis' residence as members of the university's board of trustees arrived for a dinner.

Gillis and other officials were reportedly taken aback by the passionate response of the student body. It was one of the reasons the KTRU "reorganization," which Camacho said might last into the spring semester, ended after only a week.

KTRU has been in operation since 1967, when it began as a 2-watt experiment by engineering students. In 1991, classical station KRTS paid Rice for the installation of a new, 50,000-watt transmitter so the stations would not interfere with each other, making KTRU one of the most powerful college stations in the nation.
 

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