New Times / Shredder
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 29, Issue 1
The day the music dies?
You know what really increases the quality of an education? More administrators. Specifically, administrators who have spent less time at Cal Poly than most of its students and are looking to make a splash by doing something big and showy by taking down the only branch of the college’s media department that people who don’t attend Cal Poly actually utilize.
I’m referring to Doug Epperson, the dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts, who wrote several highly inflammatory emails attacking KCPR and suggesting that the university sell the station’s radio license—only to later backtrack, insisting that he wrote this nonsense “to get people’s attention.” I guess pretending to run away from home just gets old after awhile, so he decided to start crying wolf over a beloved community institution—I’d argue the best radio station on the Central Coast.
Why? Because Epperson seems more concerned with sanitizing the university’s image than actually listening to the students he’s paid to educate. His obsession with the term “optimizing learning” is nothing more than robot-speak for dehumanizing something remarkable that inspires students and connects Cal Poly to the community on a primal, artistic level an automaton administrator apparently can’t understand.
The overblown controversy erupted when two KCPR DJs who play host to the program Getting It In posted on Facebook that they were trying to independently raise money for the station by offering to send snapchats of their dicks to anyone who donated $20 or more. Did they know this was risqué? Yes. But they also believed it was in keeping with the theme of their show, which is all about body and sex positivity.
That’s when all hell broke loose. Despite the fact that no photos were ever sent, university administrators collectively crapped their pants. Personally, I think it’s more embarrassing that a university that claims to teach its students how to function in the real world has no clue how Snapchat works. Cal Poly administrators have been describing students posting photos of their genitals “on the Internet.” That’s not quite how it works, everyone. Trust me—my genitals have their own IP address. When you read the emails, though, it seems like Cal Poly is just using this incident as an excuse to try to whitewash the station. What they mean when they now say that the station doesn’t have any “educational value” is that the students aren’t jumping through hoops laid out in a syllabus. Apparently, learning to run a radio station by simply running a radio station—and a damn fine one, at that—isn’t enough anymore. The point is no longer “learn by doing,” so much as “learn by making self-important administrators and professors feel comfortable and useful.”
There have already been many casualties in Cal Poly’s latest bout of dated moral indignation, but I especially feel bad for KCPR faculty chair advisor Richard Gearhart, who’s been getting a bad rap over this incident and has also been forbidden by the university from commenting or defending himself. By all accounts, though, he’s brought new technologies into the facility, he’s passionate and committed, and the KCPR kids love him. And if you’re looking for students who send the right image to the community—kids who are passionate about learning, creative, engaged, music literate, and well spoken—I can’t think of better representatives than the KCPR DJs.
Cal Poly administrators are upholding the rest of the journalism department as a shining example of education done right, casting KCPR as the rogue stepchild despite the fact that you’d be hard pressed to find people in the broader community lining up to for a copy of the college paper or to listen to the student media broadcasts.
But none of that means anything, because university spokesman Matt Lazier has the faculty’s collective microphones in a vice, and everyone’s afraid to speak up in defense of KCPR, lest it negatively impact their livelihoods. Lazier deliberately blocked everyone with relevant expertise from commenting on this matter—a matter that directly impacts them—in order to ensure that the media is fed bland, nonspecific comments that promote the generic agenda. I hate to invoke Footloose here because I try to save such references for really egregious cases of authoritarian behavior, but where’s Kevin Bacon when you need him?
I can see how it might really bother the university to own a radio station that is entertaining, informative, provocative, awkward, and not even close to approximating the inoffensive Top 40 pap all the other stations are churning out. What, ultimately, is so objectionable at KCPR that administrators are casting its existence in such dire and dramatic terms? It’s just kids playing music they love. I’ve been offended by Cal Poly plenty of times, but I’ve never been offended by KCPR. But then again, I’m not offended by the existence or mention of genitals or sex.
I think KCPR DJ and poetry professor Jim Cushing said it best in the Nov. 25, 2008, article “A long strange trip”: “KCPR is a kind of place where you can be human: human beings being human, instead of human beings trying to be homework machines.”
The question is: Does Cal Poly still have a place for human beings?
Shredder doesn’t want to see the day the music dies. Send musical notes to firstname.lastname@example.org.