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ISSUE 118 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/3/2004

Mission accomplished?

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, December 3, 2004

After 87 years of broadcasting excellence, St. Olaf’'s WCAL signed off for the final time on Nov. 21. It was a sad and bitter note for the radio station'’s end. Over the past three months, students, alumni, WCAL listeners and other supporters waged a spirited campaign against the school’'s sale of the station to Minnesota Public Radio. Although unsuccessful in preventing the sale, the SaveWCAL movement was an effective teaching tool for our community. This dedicated group of individuals showed us that grassroots efforts can make a difference in advancing community concerns. They demonstrated that positive outcomes are possible when people stand up for the principles they believe in. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the administration and the Board of Regents’ handling of the sale of the radio station.

What lessons did students learn from our administration'’s conduct? That our heritage can be sold to the highest bidder, that our college’'s mission should be driven by the bottom line and that when making these kinds of decisions, it is acceptable to deal with employees and students in a dishonest manner.

We understand that money is a primary concern for our school’'s administration. Tight budgets are always going to be a reality for a privately-funded school. One of the administration’'s main reasons behind the sale of WCAL was to put the school on surer footing financially. In an interview with the Messenger earlier this year, Thomforde said that the $10.5 million from the sale would go towards endowing things already happening on campus.” While we can understand this point of view, we ultimately disagree with it.

Over the past several years, St. Olaf has made numerous attempts to scale back financially - -– cutting the school'’s paracollege, getting rid of the communications major and having our student government take a voluntary budget cut. None of these reductions, however, has greatly benefited the college. In fact, the opposite has occurred: Our school has suffered because these cuts were thought necessary. St. Olaf is a community which encourages learning and growth, both of which should take place inside and outside the classroom. By cannibalizing our own resources in order to cater to the interests of a select few, we are paring away the educational opportunities available for students. In the years to come, other items are bound to end up on the same chopping block that doomed WCAL. Athletic programs, academic areas of interest such as the nursing program, the Wellness Center and other student-run organizations could all eventually be sacrificed for a few extra thousand dollars in the college’'s budget. Our administration needs to understand that it doesn’'t matter how big our endowment is; rather, what matters is the type of experience students have in their four years at St. Olaf.

The most audacious claim that the administration made during the protracted fight over WCAL'’s future was that students really didn'’t care. Students can be an apathetic bunch about many issues, but it is usually a good idea to let us claim our own indifference. As one student member of SaveWCAL noted, six physics students started WCAL in the basement of Hoyme in 1918. We obviously cared about it then. Why shouldn'’t we care about it now? The least the administration could have done would have been to ask for student input. To not even let our voices be heard reveals an insulting lack of respect for student opinion. Next time the administration decides to cut a vital part of our college tradition, we’'d like to be consulted first.

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