By Brooke Schultz
Washington College may next take residency in the airwaves, as a student-driven initiative to get a radio on campus is well underway.
“A few years ago, I was driving through Connecticut…in an 18-passenger van flipping through the radio to find something to listen to,” said junior Adam Ashcraft. “Every college had a radio station, and they were the best on the band at the time. All of the DJs seemed to care.”
Ashcraft said he thought that there was no reason that WC shouldn’t have one. Thus, at the start of this year, he approached Dr. Alicia Kozma, assistant professor of communications and media studies, to see if it was possible to bring that to WC.
“Our first step was the survey, figuring out if anybody beyond this core group actually wanted a radio station on campus, because it’s not beneficial to go through all that work if no one’s going to listen to it,” Dr. Kozma said.
A survey, designed by the group of seven students working on getting the station started, was sent out in early October and had about 500 students participate. It was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, Dr. Kozma said.
“Radio kind of gets a bad rap as a dying medium. Everyone’s on Spotify, or Pandora, or SoundCloud. They’re streaming stuff,” she said. “You can even stream your news on an app. This survey shows me there’s still a place for radio.”
The next step, she said, is figuring out how to do it: how much it will cost, where to get funding, the equipment required, and who is in charge of what aspects of the project.
Dr. Kozma said that, based on the survey, they found that most people don’t listen to the radio outside the car, so they’re likely going to use internet radio.
“We want to be able to use a platform that lets anyone listen to it whenever they want,” she said. “Internet radio is a lot cheaper for us to put together. We don’t need an antenna, we don’t need soundboards, we don’t need a massive room with mixers and two-channel microphones and all that stuff.”
What they will need, she said, is a space. Dr. Kozma and Ashcraft said that, although they don’t need a lot of equipment, they need a permanent place to set up in because it has to be soundproofed.
“That’s going to be our biggest challenge and that is the thing that could potentially hold up the timeline,” she said.
Hopefully, they said, it will be up and running by next fall.
“I think it’s a perfect fit (with communications and media studies major),” Dr. Kozma said. “One of the things that the CMS major and program does is think about different ways that resources on campus can be utilized to increase students’ participation in the world, students’ participation within their own campus community, within the local community, and think about how media can be a tool through which we can do that with. In this case, radio is our medium, we can use that to make life a little bit better on campus, give some more information, interact with the community, and start a radio culture right here on campus.”
Although there is a local radio station and Kent County High School’s station, Dr. Kozma said that this would be unique to WC.
“One of those things college radio has always been critical for is being a voice of the campus,” she said. “That’s something that the Chestertown station can’t really do for the student body, that’s something the high school station can’t do for the student body, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer valuable models for what to look at and see what we do like about what they’re doing.”
Through her introductory level CMS class, students pitched possible radio shows, proving there’s the ability to do a lot on campus, she said.
And, for Ashcraft, it will also be a way to fulfill his high school dream of having his own late night radio show.
“It’s another way for people to connect artistically and creatively with their community,” he said.