Looking back at Lawrence

It seems the most recent change to the WLFM format was not the first to occur without the knowledge of the student body. This Lawrentian article from the fall of 1990 details the process by which WPR, until just this year, came to operate WLFM.As of Sept. 1, WLFM, Lawrence University’s formerly student-run radio station, is now being operated by Wisconsin Public Radio.
In a move termed extraordinary by WPR officials, Lawrence University Dean of Faculty Leonard Thompson turned over control of WLFM to WPR in June.
Thompson declined comment during a phone interview this week asking for The Lawrentian to wait two weeks to speak to him until all paperwork with the radio station transfer was complete.
According to Glenn Slaats, WLFM’s new station manager, he was in a contract renewal meeting in June with Thompson and three or four other people.
“They asked us, ‘Would you consider taking over the operation of the station.
“When we heard that, our jaws hit the table. We said we would be interested and would come back later to talk about it.”
The deal according to Slaats called for WPR to assume control and operation of the station effective Sept. 1 with Lawrence retaining the FCC license and maintenance of the transmitter.
As a consequence of the transfer of operations, Director of Broadcasting Larry Page was fired by Lawrence with student hours reduced from 96 hours of programming per week to 23.
Page could not be reached for comment.
Management structure begins with Glenn Slaats as Station Manager, Dick Knapinski will be Program Producer and host for a nightly news radio show for the campus and community.
Slaats also said that he is looking into involving three or four student managers who would run the weekend student programming.
“We were not looking to take over the station when we started talking, but we’re not going to turn down a gift.”
This dramatic change of events began last spring as negotiations between WPR and Lawrence over its affiliation in the state public radio network began.
WPR management was restructuring its programming that was to run on WLFM.
Under WPR’s plan, WLFM was to become a part of WPR’s talk show oriented “Ideas Network.”
The original plan of WPR was to extend its broadcast day to 4 p.m. cutting the afternoon concert show originating at WLFM by five hours.
The plan met with opposition in the spring from WLFM’s student managers, though then General Manager Larry Dahlke did indicate a willingness to compromise with WPR.
Dahlke said about the transfer, “WPR had only planned an extension of their programming day by four hours.
“I think the Lawrence administration saw an opportunity to get WLFM cleared from their budget by eliminating Larry Page’s position and passing on equipment upkeep to WPR.”
In terms of hours of student programming, 5 to 7 p.m. each evening would be classical with weekend slots opened up to students from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Also under the agreement, equipment is put into WPR’s control and placed on a regular maintenance program.
That point causes concern for summer manager Todd Niquette.
“We have a really advanced (sound) board in there. Larry’s theory was that we needed a really good board to do what we wanted to.
“That board is better than most professional radio stations. Let’s say, under the contract, they say we need to replace a board elsewhere, guess where the board’s going to go.”
Slaats denied that would happen saying that the schedule is to maintain already existing equipment, not to raid on station for its parts.
Dahlke an Niquette both agree that the timing on the part of the university to work out the details of the agreement in the summer was not coincidental.
“It boils down to public image. $60,000 is a drop in the bucket to the university” said Niquette.
“It was well-timed on their part. My perception is that they didn’t want students involved in the decision making,” said Dahlke.