Administration must take KSHU advisory board and community demands seriously
Listeners, staff and volunteers of community of the non-commercial public radio station KHSU have spoken.
They demand a replacement for the Humboldt State University appointed general manager Peter Fretwell and a change in character of his supervisor, University Advancement Vice President, Craig Wruck.
HSU should adhere to their concerns and demands immediately, or at least take active measures to find some middle ground.
After the sudden firing of KHSU’s program operations manager Katie Whiteside, KHSU has been vocal about what feels to them like a “hostile takeover.” A little over a month after Fretwell fired Whiteside, the KHSU advisory board submitted a letter to administration in which they present a vote of no confidence against Fretwell, respectfully asking him to step down.
Soon after, Wruck attended the July advisory board meeting to face feedback and questions from the community. Fretwell, however, was not present per Wruck’s request.
After over two hours of back and forth over several issues between the community, the station and Wruck, he confirmed that Fretwell’s position is not in danger.
“At this point Peter is meeting my expectations and his job is not in jeopardy,” Wruck said.
This is a blatant disregard of community voice and of the people the radio station is meant to serve. HSU has done nothing
According to the KHSU website, “HSU provides approximately 20 percent of KHSU’s cash revenue… HSU also provides facilities and other significant administrative in-kind support for station operations.”
This means that HSU serves as a sort of a glorified landlord that deals with some management of operations and staffing. The history and relationship of KHSU and the university is more closely tied than just landlord and tenant, however the station was created primarily to serve the community.
Now it receives the majority of its funding from the community instead of depending solely on HSU to run smoothly.
“Contributions from listeners, businesses and local organizations account for the remaining 64 percent of the station’s annual operating budget,” their website said.
This station is the blood, sweat and tears of minimal staff, mostly volunteers, dedicated listeners and strong and unyielding community. A lot of those who currently work for or worked for KHSU are Humboldt State alum. They want transparency from the university and a sign that their voices are being heard and most of all they want action.
Tensions between KHSU and the university have only grown worse since Whiteside’s firing. At the July 27 KHSU advisory board meeting, community members called out the university for its lack of transparency and lack of response to their concerns.
Between the firing of Whiteside and the last advisory board meeting, allegations of abusive behavior and a hostile work environment have surfaced from staff at KHSU against both Fretwell and Wruck.
Though letters have been sent to Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher, not much as been done in the way of addressing the fighting between Wruck, Fretwell and KHSU.
Feedback against the way business is being handled at KHSU has grown even more tense with the added allegations of aggressive behavior in addition to a requested audit of the station, a suggested change to the mission statement and values and a transition toward new technology.
It is not immediately clear if Wruck and Fretwell will pause, take a step back and begin to listen and respond with empathy. Both men remain in their positions and are still responsible for running a station that is losing or has already lost faith in them.
Before relations between the university and KHSU staff, volunteers, sponsors and listeners worsen, HSU needs to make some changes or take active measures to mediate issues between their chosen leadership and the community.
There is no room for mediation at KHSU. The damage has been done and several workers at the station remain fearful. Peter Fretwell should do the right thing and resign as should Mr. Wruck who set this disaster in motion in the first place. The high levels of incompetence at Humboldt State University boggles my imagination. Listeners to the station should consider withholding their financial support until and unless the men who created this trauma are gone.