Early this afternoon, protesters met at Valhalla, Rice’s on-campus pub, to make signs and t-shirts for the protest before marching as a group to the statue of William Marsh Rice in near triple-digit heat. The timing of the protest and the weather no doubt kept some people away, but the event was still 100-plus strong, with people lining the perimeter of the quad where trees provided shade.
Event organizers also set up tents, handed out cold water and gave away noisemakers to the protesters. Tables held “Save KTRU” stickers, petitions and poster-making supplies.
Even before the event started, one “KTRUvian” climbed atop the Willy statue to speak. “If we don’t take a stand now, nothing will ever change,” he said. “I invite you to create a little chaos.” He then had to be asked to climb down by the rally’s organizers, who had a tight schedule of speakers to get through.
Student DJ Joey Yang, who helped organize the rally, spoke of Rice’s upcoming 100-year anniversary and the station’s 40-year history as a student-run entity. He said he’d learned that over a year ago Rice began looking for someone to take the station “off of their hands,” to which someone in the audience angrily replied “It’s not their station!”
Yang said the University had adopted a new slogan for it’s anniversary “Unconventional Wisdom”.
“KTRU embodies what a Rice University education is supposed to be about.”
Another UH rationale for the purchase was to increase the capacity of KUHF to produce quality local programming. In the past, critics have judged both KUHF’s classical music programs and local news and public affairs programming mediocre at best.
Simply adding another broadcast station at UH won’t solve that problem. It’s going to take strong leadership and talent, something that doesn’t automatically come with a new broadcasting tower and frequency. If the sale goes through, the ultimate justification for the expenditure must be a sharp upgrade in the quality, rather than the quantity, of programming.
Recent history suggests that’s not going to happen. I’m rooting for that outcome, too, but I can’t say I’ll be surprised to be disappointed.
I guess the question I have at this point is, how exactly do the Save KTRU folks hope to affect the final outcome? Both boards of regents have voted to go ahead with the sale. There’s a 30-day public comment period, after which the FCC must give its approval, but what are the odds that it won’t? More to the point, what are the conditions under which they won’t? (Yeah, there’s the Open Meetings Act issue, but 1) that’s a question for the Attorney General, not the FCC, and 2) far as I know, nobody has asked the Attorney General to investigate that yet.) I don’t see what leverage exists for those who oppose the sale. The Burn Down Blog suggests Rice President David Leebron is prepared for the possibility of losing the fight over KTRU, but he doesn’t suggest how Leebron might lose it. I admire the passion of the KTRU supporters, but I don’t know what their plan is. How exactly are they going to achieve the result they want? Help me out here, because I don’t see it.
UPDATE: More photos from the rally here.
UPDATE: And here’s the Chron story of the rally.