The news of KPLU’s sale to KUOW Thursday met mixed reactions from students and faculty at Pacific Lutheran University.
In an email sent to several PLU faculty members, Professor of Music and Composer Gregory Youtz confessed to feeling “punched in the gut.”
“I am speechless, disheartened, worried, angered and insulted. I have never seen any decision like this at PLU in my nearly 32 years here,” Youtz wrote. He compared this decision to cuts made in the early 1990s, a time of financial trouble for PLU, saying the community faced these decisions together.
“I am also shocked that we were not included in such a monumental change to our public identity,” he wrote. “Is the word Lutheran next? Perhaps the word ‘service?’”
“I can’t imagine PLU without KPLU,” wrote Music Education Chair Linda Miller in the same email as Youtz. “Even when I taught in South Georgia, I could listen to KPLU, and it was my link to home and much of what is great about the Pacific Northwest.”
In a closed meeting with the PLU Faculty, President Krise addressed concerns from professors in a Q&A session.
At that time, he confirmed that though the only official document signed has been the letter of intent, the KPLU call letters will not be changing within the first 10 years of the deal, as well as a continued support for live events, such as the KPLU Christmas Jam and Jazz Under The Stars. Information regarding KPLU’s music license for the university will be ironed out in the coming months.
PLU President Thomas Krise also says, in a separate interview with Mast Media, that the decision was not a financial one.
“Both KPLU and KUOW spend $1 million a year on exactly the same programming that covers nine hours a day,” Krise said Friday. “You can switch from station to station and almost not miss a word between the two. So thats resources of a public service in the region that are being squandered because of our competition.”
“Also, KPLU has been one of the largest stations in the country that’s still a split format,” he continued.
Krise also emphasized the importance of the station as an “asset of the university.”
“A dozen years ago we did an evaluation of KPLU and it came in at $12.8 million.You can see that the value is declining over that time,” Krise said. “We’re responsible for making sure that the assets of our university continue to support our mission to educate our students. If we have an asset that is declining in value, we need to figure out what to do about it.”
Several students were saddened by the news, including Junior Theo Hofrenning.
“It’ll be different.” Hofrenning said. “Who knows why they did it, but the fact that they needed to signals to me that there’s something we need to know.”
Other issues have arisen in the midst of the sale, such as what’s to become of the KPLU staff members and DJs.
“It’s important to note that KUOW has no expertise in jazz, and they’re about to set up a 24-7 jazz station,” Krise said. “The best jazz people and programmers in this country if not the world are KPLU employees. Everyone is quite confident that the best people will continue to be employed.”
Sources at KPLU say station employees are not being promised jobs or given any priority in the transition to KUOW.
“I think it’s important to note that this is not in any way a “fire” sale, the university is in very good position,” Krise said. “We had a budget surplus at the end of last year, we’re at a record number of graduate students, and our endowment is at $85 million, the highest it’s ever been.”
In email responses to concerned sustaining members, KPLU suggests cancelling their subscriptions, since all funds will now be contributed to PLU, according to Mast Media’s KPLU source.
KPLU encouraged that if the public wish to challenge the purchase, they can do so through the FCC.