WVBU incident continues to raise questions

Madeline Diamond, News Editor

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It has been over a week since three University students were expelled after making racist and violent comments on the WVBU radio station, leaving the campus community pondering the greater issues of racism and diversity on campus, beyond this incident alone.

Many are still asking how this incident occurred despite University policy, WVBU rules, and U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laws that the radio station must abide by.

According to the WVBU DJ Manual, which was written largely by alumnus Alex Alam ’13, a previous station manager, the FCC mandates a safe harbor policy regarding on-air language. The policy refers to the time period of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when certain language is considered explicit. The WVBU DJ Manual explains this policy, and adds additional language restrictions referring to explicit music content. The manual also addresses words that may not be broadcast on air at any time.

The manual states, “the word ‘nigger’ may be played NO MORE than three times per fifteen-minute period, although it is highly recommended that it be censored. Clearly derogatory uses of the word ‘nigger’ may NOT be broadcast AT ALL.”

Assistant Director of the Annual Fund Ron Marquette, who has previously hosted a radio show through WVBU, went through the re-training process in November 2014. Marquette, who was re-trained by Will Christner ’16, noted the changes of the training process, including the level of professionalism and the DJ Manual itself.

“I had realized that the training had taken a huge step up,” Marquette said of his re-training experience. “[Christner] was very clear of what you do on the air and what you don’t do.” 

After learning of the March 20 WVBU incident, Marquette pointed out the portion of the DJ Manual that clearly prohibits the language used by the now-expelled students. Despite the fact that the n-word is allowed to be played via musical content at certain hours and with limitations, it is firmly stated that it may never be broadcast in a derogatory manner, as it was by students on March 20 during the “Happy Times” radio show.

Drew Kelly, a DJ for Sunbury’s radio station 94KX and member of the University’s Student Media Advisory Board, gave his perspective on the WVBU incident, specifically regarding the training process of DJs.

“Not much training exists for what is or is not appropriate in commercial radio. You come to learn this from experience. The experience is usually gained as a part-time DJ, as a full-time DJ at smaller stations, or in college radio,” Kelly said of his commercial radio experience.

Since Kelly mentioned that college radio experience is an important part of a DJ’s training and experience, he also shared his opinion on the WVBU incident.

“My feeling is that WVBU handled it well, by immediately removing all individuals involved in that night’s broadcast from the station’s line up. That’s a given,” he said. 

Kelly also noted the chance to treat this as a learning experience for students involved in WVBU.

“What I feel Bucknell University could have done differently was to try and offer these students an education as to why this was such a despicable act, and how they can better understand the sensitivities of a college campus, and world for that matter. Students are students–they’re young, they’re inexperienced in life, and they make mistakes. I in no way condone, or even excuse, what they did, but I can relate, having been a college student myself who made some pretty bad decisions as an 18-year-old. Luckily for me, I had older friends and mentors who helped educate me and allow me to learn and grow from my mistakes. I was hoping Bucknell would have given these students a second chance, but it was clear there was none to be had, and I understand why the University reacted this way,” Kelly said.

The student conduct investigation is continuing for additional students involved in the incidents, although  President John Bravman said that it is expected to conclude within the next week.

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