Photos by Brittanie Shey
At least 100 staff, students, alumni and music fans from Rice University, the University of Houston and Rice's student-run radio station KTRU gathered on the Rice campus this afternoon to protest the sale of the station to the University of Houston.
The Houston Press first found out about the sale of the station's transmitter Monday afternoon, apparently before the station's student staff was notified of UH's plan to approve the transaction at Tuesday's Board of Regents meeting.
Only after the Press broke the news of the pending sale did Rice University inform the students of the plan. Much has been made about the decision to approve the sale over the summer, when the majority of the station's student staff were out of town.
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 its anniversary: "Unconventional Wisdom".
"KTRU embodies what a Rice University education is supposed to be about."
He also questioned Rice's motivation for selling the station's transmitter. "What will be next? The football stadium? Student attendance is certainly scarce enough."
Ashley Brownlie, a protester, said she'd canceled her sustaining membership to KUHF because of the sale.
"I told them I didn't want any of my money going towards the purchase," she said. The woman to whom she spoke at KUHF said several other people had canceled their memberships for the same reason.
Andrew Fortson, a graduate student of music and a guitar instructor at UH, asked The Press if we thought the Save KTRU movement, which includes a Twitter page and Facebook along with a dedicated Web site, would be successful in preventing the sale. SaveKTRU.org is following developments in the students' plans to fight the sale.
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Among potential avenues is the report from Texas Watchdog that the Board of Regents may have violated the Open Meetings Act by not specifically mentioning KTRU on the meeting agenda.
The FCC also requires a mandatory 30-day period for public comment before a sale can be approved.
Station manager Kelsey Yule seemed choked up as she discussed the sale and KTRU's importance and reach not as online radio, but as a traditional over-the-airwaves station.
"After everything today," she said, "the most important thing is to stay active and stay informed on SaveKTRU.org."