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Radio Tue Sep 25 2012
WZRD 88.3 FM, Northeastern Illinois University's non-commercial, freeform student radio station known for playing an eclectic array of musical genres, was suspended from the airwaves this summer and replaced with an automated playlist.
On June 29, student DJs, known as the "Wizards," were called into a meeting on short notice by the Office of Student Leadership Development. Its former director, Sharron Evans, distributed a memo stating they were thereby banned from the WZRD office, canceling their scheduled radio shows, until further notice.
"We were handed a list of incredulous accusations," Jonathan Extract, a NEIU student and WZRD DJ, said.
According to Extract, Evans accused the station as a whole of misplacing important documents, misappropriation of $200, and "a lack of advancement of the station." He says that the two latter accusations have already been cleared up with the Federal Communications Committee (FCC).
Since NEIU is the legal owner of WZRD, they have the right to temporarily take the station's regular broadcasting off the air for whatever reasons they see fit. But the university is remaining fairly tight-lipped about the lockout.
NEIU spokesperson Dana Navarro says that the university is currently "working with two committees to assure the long-term success of WZRD and the student organization that operates it."
One of the committees, composed of members of the Student Government Association, is currently reviewing WZRD "for potential violations to its bylaws and charter." Various members of the NEIU community make up the second committee, which is determining possible solutions for the future of the station.
The administration hopes that both committees will conclude their review during the 2012 fall semester in order to reinstate WZRD radio as soon as possible.
Extract speculates that the university is planning to "reformat and repurpose the station." He says the student government and the Council of Clubs at NEIU have circulated two polls to the student body asking which specific genres they would like to hear on the student-run station. According to him, neither of these surveys included the option of continuing the freeform radio format.
In the meantime, the exiled Wizards have been lobbying a petition to bring back true WZRD radio. They also produced a newspaper to spread the word of their plight across NEIU's campus, and the city at large.
In an effort to keep the spirit of WZRD radio alive, they have been airing their programming on other stations. Every Sunday night at 6:30pm, the Wizards hold a slot on WNUR 89.3 FM, Northwestern University's radio station.
This is not the first time WZRD has been suspended from the airwaves since its inception in 1974.
In 2005, NEIU's student radio station was temporarily shut down due to an expired license. The university was fined and the Wizards were forced to stop broadcasting until the issue was resolved with the FCC.
The most recent conflict leads the Wizards to believe a similar situation could occur. The station's license, which requires a four-month period for renewal, is set to expire in December.
According to Navarro, the university has already completed the FCC application for the license's renewal.