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Confusion on the airwaves3 minute read

KHSU CAB members requested to halt further meetings

Humboldt State University president, Lisa Rossbacher, has recently requested KHSU’s community advisory board cease further meetings until individual and private communication takes place.

A community advisory board letter sent to Rossbacher on June 29 left her confused on the decisions made during their June meeting. The letter addressed to HSU administration states that the community advisory board voted a ‘no confidence’ towards general manager Peter Fretwell and have requested his termination.

“I have become aware of confusion and disagreement about whether the advisory board’s action last June was intended to communicate feedback that the CAB had received from some members of the public or to reflect a formal vote of no confidence by the CAB itself in KHSU general manager Peter Fretwell,” Rossbacher wrote in a letter on Sep. 17.

The minutes report, which is the written record of the meeting that took place, states under ‘New Business’: “Discussion of the CAB response to the community’s call for a vote of no confidence.”

Frank Whitlatch, assistant vice president of marketing and communications at HSU, said Rossbacher is asking for clarity involving who made the decision at the meeting.

Whitlatch said the initial reporting of the advisory group made a ‘no confidence’ vote on general manger, Peter Fretwell, but later on in the meeting the minutes said it was a community decision.

“Did the board make the vote or the community?” Whitlatch said.

Whitlatch said the story was incorrectly reported by Mad River Union and the Lost Coast Journal but since has been revised and that has furthered rumors suggesting Rossbacher has banned the community advisory board from meeting together.

“They can meet if they want, they’re grown ups,” Whitlatch said. ‘The president just wants to speak individually to clear up confusion on the decision.

To further tension between HSU administration and KHSU, the program, Thursday Night Talk, was recently cancelled by Fretwell when four community advisory board members were supposed to be guests.

Whitlatch said Fretwell has the final say of all editorial content at KHSU, and it was his decision alone.

There is a firewall blocking editorial content between KHSU and HSU management. Fretwell didn’t believe KHSU could be objective and report on itself.

“I do not have the ability to call KHSU and tell them what to produce on the air,” Whitlatch said. “No administrator does.”

KHSU development director David Reed was one of three staff members who attended the community advisory board June meeting. Reed said the last few months 25 to 100 people have showed up and 100 to 160 people in May, June, and July, a higher number than in the past.

The meetings have been getting more community involvement since the firing of Katie Whiteside. Reed said three percent, about 120 out of the 3000 station’s donors have left along with four supporting brand or organization underwriters.

“There was a lot of public comment at the meeting, it was an unusual one,” Reed said of the June meeting.

Reed said he did not know about the vote confusion and it never occurred to him at the meeting. Ultimately it would have to be to the community advisory board to answer that question.

A CSU revisory team has been looking at the operations of KHSU. Rossbacher requested in a July 19 letter to vice chancellor of California State University system Larry Mandel, asking advisory services to evaluate “operations, administration, oversight, review of accounts payable processes, communications among staff between KHSU and HSU, oversight FCCC broadcast station licenses, volunteer engagement and training processes and suggestions on whether voluntary compliance audits should be requested from the California Broadcasters Association,” at KHSU.

“It’s hard to manage opinions at KHSU,” Whitlatch said. “Disagreements and opinions have been stifled.”

 

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