As anyone who cares would have known by now, the Rice administration has okayed a $9.5 million deal for the sale of KTRU radio frequency (specifically the license and the tower) to the University of Houston, so that they can set up a classical music channel (KUHC) and convert their current KUHF frequency to a dedicated news channel. Several people have commented on this situation already (see additional links at the end) so I figured I might as well contribute my opinion.
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I was anything but an avid KTRU listener. I didn’t have a car at Rice so I didn’t really have the option to tune into any radio station so the only music I heard when I was a student was on the internet or through recommendations from other people. The one show I did follow somewhat closely was MK Ultra, which was an electronica show hosted by Paul Thompson, my roommate junior and senior year every Friday night that featured 1-hour sets from 2-3 professional DJs in Houston.
That said, most of the problems I have with this whole situation is the procedure that was followed. I first learned about this at around 10pm last night from the aforementioned Paul. There were a total of 2 news articles on the subject, online. One a rumor published by houstonpress and the other a more concrete piece by the Houston Chronicle. This morning, things are much more publicized and out in the open, and the Rice admin is beginning to see how many people they upset by the poor process they followed.
KTRU, as I understand, has existed as a student-run enterprise for 40 years. The new 50,000 watt transmitter has existed for 19 of those 40 years, serving out content to the city of Houston. But the administration didn’t think it would be a good idea to engage students or alumni or really anyone, whilst potentially destroying the work put in by all those volunteers throughout the decades. The decision certainly makes sense from a financial perspective, but it reeks of arrogance and a continued disconnection from the people who actually comprise Rice.
When I decided to attend Rice back in the spring of 2005, the primary factor in my decision was the relatively cheap cost for a great education. In my four years at Rice, the annual tuition grew 16%. That may not seem like a very large number, unless we look at it contextually. The tuition grew about $6000 from 2005-2009. Right now it stands at a bit above $40,000 a year. Over a standard 4-year curriculum, kids that are matriculating today will have to pay about $25,000 more than I did 4 years ago. That is a mind-bogglingly large number, especially given the fact that we are in the middle of an economic recession.
The current administration is trying to shape Rice into something that is completely different from the Rice that I researched when I was applying and the one that I attended. And I don’t think it’s for a particularly appreciable cause, either. It’s not as if a Rice degree in the 90’s or early 00’s was worth less than one now–in fact, ironic as it may be, I think a Rice degree was actually worth more back then than it is now, despite causing a fraction of the cost. Providing smart, young individuals a longer rope than most conventional colleges do actually worked and as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done. The administration has trekked down a path of expansion without concern for how it will affect the quality of education for the individual. They’ve built 2 new residential colleges and expanded more within a matter of months but academic buildings are continuously ignored when it comes to upgrades or new additions. The administration is constantly meddling in cultures and traditions that are entrenched in the history of the university and KTRU is just the newest one in what is likely to be just one more in an unending wave of destruction.
In Leebron’s email (which conveniently has not been sent out to all alumni–it didn’t get delivered to my mailbox), he claims that the station will be sold so that the money can be better used to augment facilities that affect more students. Such as using the money to build the new East Servery. If you ask me, it seems like the administration is quickly finding out that it’s plans for gung-ho expansion of the university weren’t thought out very carefully, and with the economy severely affecting their endowments, they’re in a bit of a cash-press. They can’t back down from their major investment in the expansion of the school as that would appear weak, so instead they have targeted a cultural institution that most students won’t care about. In doing so, they’ve successfully cannibalized the KTRU radio station, a goal it seems they shared with the previous administration, and created a new generation of disgruntled alumni.