WUVI in the V.I.: College radio station is on the air
Published: February 25, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - While most college classes ensure that students will at some point have to pull the infamous "all-nighter" to finish an essay, or slave through seemingly endless midterms, at least one UVI class offers a very different curriculum: It allows students to run their own radio station.
Staffed almost entirely by students, WUVI, which can be found on frequency 1090 AM, launched on Jan. 9. The station carries a range of content, from Caribbean music and reports about campus happenings to radio dramas and syndicated news programming.
As the very first college radio station in the U.S. Virgin Islands, other than a pirate radio station in the 1970s, WUVI had been in the works for several years, according to the station's founder, Alexander Randall.
Randall, who also is the chairman of UVI's Department of Music, Communication, Arts and Theatre, had been teaching a mock radio course for the last decade.
Having been allotted one hour per week with local broadcaster Radio 1, Randall's students reported on and edited small news clips. However, Randall had long been hoping for a real, independent station.
After UVI President David Hall heard a particularly impressive broadcast, he approached Randall about creating a school station.
From there, Randall worked last year to procure a grant that would provide the necessary funding for such a massive undertaking. His efforts were rewarded: UVI was awarded a Title III grant by the Education Department in October.
Randall immediately set to work setting up a station space, choosing an old dorm room on campus.
Despite some early stumbling blocks, which Randall chalked up to the "bureaucracy" of the school, he eventually was able to procure all of the equipment for a functioning radio station. After putting up carpeting on the walls for soundproofing and building the necessary furniture, the station now is up-and-running every day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The station reaches all of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and as far south as Dominica, according to a UVI press release.
Randall, who holds a Ph.D. in communication and culture from Columbia University, stressed the importance of utilizing WUVI as a means of promoting local culture.
"I'm a cultural anthropologist. And I said, 'Guys, we're not going to use this radio station to rape the local culture. This radio station is not here to be another hip-hop station.' This station is not here to disenfranchise the local population," Randall said. "We're here to support local culture. Local music, local artists, local poetry, local writers, local theater, local drama, local whatever.
"If it's made here, we'll put that on our radio station," Randall said. "We want more people to hear the stuff that's made here locally."
WUVI also brings in outside content that listeners might not have the chance to hear otherwise. Using syndicated news broadcasts from Pacifica Radio, WUVI believes it can offer first-rate news reporting to locals. Randall called Pacifica's news broadcasts "staggeringly good," and referenced their 20-minute on-the-ground coverage of the French troops' invasion of Mali.
WUVI also is broadcasting lectures and events at the university.
"We like to think of ourselves as a force of good in the community," said station manager April Rose Fale-Knight, the only true employee at WUVI, and a graduate of UVI's Class of 2010.
The student response to the class has been positive.
While the radio devices can be tricky to learn, "one you read everything and start playing around yourself, it's generally straightforward," according to UVI senior Nicole Moore, a Humanities major.
In the future, WUVI plans to require students to complete two introductory courses before getting involved in the station's production. Students will be taught the basics: the science of sound, microphone use, and editing, before ever stepping foot in the studio.
However, for the time being the requirements are simpler.
"I need people on-air more than I need people to go through the process to get on," Randall said. "In time, everyone who is on air will have gone through those classes."
The radio classes will also be open enrollment starting in the Fall 2013 semester.
Other items on the station's wish-list include a St. Croix studio, multilanguage news reports targeted to the different nationalities on St. Thomas and a switch to solar-powered radio waves.
While the university hopes WUVI grows in popularity and content, Randall emphasized that the station operates on a classroom-first mentality.
"While it exists as a radio station, it also is a teaching tool for the journalism program," he said.
For students, the opportunity to get hands-on experience at the station is the best part.
"Getting the experience of being on the radio, like you would for a job," explained sophomore Stefan Todman, a Communications major. "We get to do it in a class."