The Thresher

Rice administrators would do well not to underestimate the intelligence or commitment of Owl protesters, as shown in the comments on the Rice Thresher, the web version of the school newspaper, which contains some scathing indictments of bean counter actions.

drrro: “We’re out there more than we have ever been before, and I think people have to ask the question: ‘How effective was it?’ when most of the people we encountered never listened to KTRU, never heard of it,” Leebron said. “It’s kind of a logical fallacy that every time you stop doing something that is related to the engagement with Houston you’ve abandoned your commitment to it.”

it’s also kind of a logical fallacy to assume that the people you interact with as a university president represent the city as a whole and to assume that the people you don’t interact with are insignificant in proportion or importance to the local houston flavor.

jaded alum: It’s getting harder and harder to mask my contempt for this man. Leebs, here’s the deal. We all understand now. You really just don’t give a damn about preserving the quirky side of Rice culture. It’s okay, you can say it. There will be plenty of people supporting you when you finally admit all you care about is money, expansion and princeton review rankings. Just stop trying to pretend that you’re still on the students’ side because honestly, it’s insulting.

Rodney Gibbs: President Leebron brings up a provocative point, and one that’s particularly familiar to me:”Where else is a student organization sitting on a $10 million resource that quite clearly doesn’t belong to them?” Leebron asked. “It was quite clear that the university owned the resource and that if it increased too much in value, this might be one of the outcomes.”

Yes, it was quite clear. In fact, students themselves in 1990 were the first to make that very argument to President George Rupp, Leebron’s predecessor, when his administration informed KTRU that its transmitter would be upgraded from 650 to 50,000 watts. We opposed the upgrade for precisely the reason Leebron mentions: a station with that much power is at risk of becoming too valuable to leave in the hands of a student organization. We worried that future administrations could come to see KTRU as a commodity rather than a cultural and educational resource.

President Rupp and his administration assured us that no such outcome would ever come to pass. The benefactor who paid for the upgrade had provided for all financial costs to be covered in perpetuity, President Rupp assured us. The university would never sell KTRU or its assets, just as it would never liquidate the Thresher’s layout tables (this was the early 1990s, mind you), the Rice Player’s stage, or the football team’s stadium. We should stop objecting and enjoy this gift and the increased exposure it gave us, we were told. (While I learned many real world lessons working at KTRU, I missed a big one with this interaction: always get it in writing.)

I suspect President Leebron would respond that times have changed and his administration is not bound by the commitments of his predecessors. That may be so. Yet, Leebron routinely makes commitments and assurances that affect not just current students, faculty and alumni but future ones as well. Are we to assume that the commitments he makes on behalf of the university are valid only as long as he sits in the president’s chair? Will future administrations honor the commitments that this president has made? I, for one, would expect them to. Otherwise, the Rice president does not speak for Rice; he only speaks for himself. I, for one, expect more from Rice.

Patrick Martina: As a KTRU alumni, I am very upset by this decision and the adminsitration’s apparent contempt for the 40+ years of VOLUNTEER work by Rice students and members of the Houston community to create and build KTRU as a broadcast radio station. Rice wouldn’t have this $10 million asset if not for the efforts of those volunteers and outside benefactors. Now they have been shat upon by the administration. I hope Dr. Leebron recognizes the severe damage that he has done to student and alumni relations with this decision. I, for one, will no longer serve as an alumni interviewer for the admissions office or donate money to Rice, and neither can I in good conscience encourage local kids to apply to or attend Rice in the future.

Tex Duncan: “Where else is a student organization sitting on a $10 million resource that quite clearly doesn’t belong to them?” Leebron asked. “It was quite clear that the university owned the resource and that if it increased too much in value, this might be one of the outcomes.” [/quote]Rodney provided the historical background relevant to this quote, but from a nonprofit perspective, I want to point out how sickening this statement is. What the Trustees have sold off is not something they bought in a previous meeting — it is an asset donated to Rice University for a specific purpose.

If Mr. Stude had intended the University to accept the gift, hold onto it for 20 years while it appreciated in value, and then sell it for a profit, he would not have accompanied his gift with an endowment to cover maintenance and operation in perpetuity.

KTRU’s broadcast assets — despite the legal ownership — are intended for Rice student use. They are not a pair of tickets donated to a silent auction or a used car donated to public radio.

Yet to be addressed in anything I have read is what is to become of the KTRU-FM operating endowment? Does the university now intend for all of that endowment revenue to remain with KTRU? Or since it was tied specifically to the transmitter do they seek to redirect it either for absorption in to the university endowment, or worse, to spend it on a one-time expense?

rice mom x 2: Having sat through not one but two of Leebron’s OWeek “how important the students are” speeches, I am totally disillusioned with him as well as with the administration’s handling of this situation. The irony of hearing the second version on August 15, 2010, before the KTRU story broke, is not lost on me and my husband. Writing tuition checks to Rice will be a lot more painful because of the doubt we now have in the honesty and integrity of this administration.

Sarah: This week, the Rice administration did not send anybody, not even staff or a representative, to the open forum held to discuss the attempted sale of KTRU. (See Thresher front page, Sept 3). President Leebron’s promises in his editorial that “Going forward, we’re going to try to be as collaborative with the KTRU folks as possible” appear empty. I don’t feel that I can trust him to fulfill other promises either.

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One Response

  1. Thank you all for your comments and concerns regarding the now imminent demise of beloved, if “underutilized,” KTRU-FM in Houston. What is particularly loathsome here — not just the underhandedness of the actions and attitudes of Leebron and his ilk — is the real tragedy of the complete loss, for nary a penny, of the 91.5FM translator, that could have saved Rice Radio from being just another internet audio port.

    You would think that a University of the caliber of Rice could put its hands on, and in, better management than this…. apparently not.

    Will Leebron deliver the final insult and take the station off the air as a Christmas present to Rice students?

    My condolences,
    jim radio
    AMARC10 conference
    La Plata, Argentina
    11/6/10

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