Op-ed: KWURN’T Week: A reflection on our rejected appeal

KWUR Exec

In 2003, the Riverfront Times declared, “KWUR is the best radio station in St. Louis precisely because of its contrary nature.” It is with this spirit that we wish to challenge Student Union Treasury’s rejection of our appeal for the 27th edition of KWUR Week. We believe KWUR Week is not merely important to our student group, but a vital tradition for Washington University. In denying funding for KWUR Week, Treasury is effectively denying our ability to uphold one of the events that makes Wash. U. so special. We write this article with the hope of persuading Student Union to reconsider our appeal because we fundamentally believe that after 27 years the Wash. U. community expects and deserves to attend KWUR Week in its fully-funded glory.

For readers who may not know, KWUR 90.3 FM is Wash. U.’s student-run radio station. We have had our FM broadcast since 1976 and in the early 2000s we introduced an online stream, allowing our programming to be heard by anyone, anywhere. Over our 43 years, we have solidified our place not only in the Wash. U. community, but also in the greater St. Louis region and college radio landscape. In addition to music, talk and sports broadcasting, we pride ourselves on bringing diverse, underground live music performances to the Wash. U. community. KWUR Week epitomizes this aim. This week of free concerts entails a rock show with student openers, a local music showcase, a classical performance and a headliner show by an up-and-coming talent you’ll get to brag about discovering before they’ve “made it big.” Past performers have included Anderson .Paak, Joey Purp, of Montreal, The Mountain Goats, Thee Oh Sees, Yo La Tengo, Cloud Nothings, Metz, Bedhead…the list goes on.

One of the magical things about KWUR Week is that it gives students the opportunity to engage with artists on a much more intimate level than is possible through other Wash. U. programming. Take Anderson .Paak’s headlining show in 2016 as an example. Perhaps more notable than the show itself was the fact that .Paak lingered after his set, taking questions and sharing his story with anyone who wanted to stay. Students shared their own artistic aspirations with .Paak, and he provided encouragement and real-world insights for Wash. U.’s budding creatives. By bringing musical artists to campus who are willing and excited to engage with students, KWUR Week provides a space to nourish our creative ambitions and learn about the music-making process from all angles. As anyone who was at .Paak’s show can attest, these moments have become irreplaceable memories.

Funding for KWUR Week has not always been smooth sailing. Last year, we did not receive funding for the Mothers performance. It ended up being a blessing in disguise. Creative instincts took over, and our promotions director Zoe Morris pulled out a notebook and started drawing up a lighting scheme like a coach calling her out of timeout play with 10 seconds left. The Wash. U. community contributed to the effort, as students donated lamps, power strips and extension cables for the show. What was supposed to be a setback ended up being one of the most memorable parts of KWUR Week 2018, and those who attended that gorgeous Graham Chapel performance continue to muse on its success. It’s this kind of creativity and collaboration that makes KWUR Week so special to the campus community as a whole, and this is why we ask SU to help us continue this important tradition.

Last Tuesday, we appealed in front of Treasury for KWUR Week funding.

We were funded $0.00.

Treasury voted not to fund us because we had violated the 90 percent rule last year (due to an accidental misallocation of funds for our schedule posters). SU had not funded our budget item for schedule posters, but we used our budget to purchase them anyway, resulting in a misallocation. The SU Budget Allocation Manual states: “If a student group spends less than 90 percent of their funding in a given semester, the group’s next allocation will be capped to the amount spent that semester. Misallocations will not be included as spent.” With the misallocation on posters, our spending came to less than 90 percent of our funding.

Over the last five years, we have appealed to Treasury in the spring for KWUR Week. However, at the beginning of this year, we met with SU leadership and decided that it would be more beneficial for both KWUR and Treasury if we included KWUR Week on our spring budget. We did so, but the event was not funded because of the 90 percent rule violation from the previous year. As a result, our only course of action for funding KWUR Week 2019 was to appeal in front of Treasury. The only catch: Treasury does not traditionally hear appeals from student groups whose budget items were not funded due to the 90 percent rule, so they rejected our appeal. We are in a bureaucratic bind, and we believe this is something SU needs to acknowledge and address.

KWUR does not fault Treasury for their commitment to a standard of impartiality, and we are not asking for special treatment or favoritism. We also fully admit to our negligence in misallocating funds for our schedule posters, which resulted in the 90 percent rule violation. Furthermore, we would like to thank members of Student Union Executive Council for their help and support in navigating this process. This article is in not an indictment of Student Union members, it is rather a call to reflect on policy and procedure.

Nevertheless, one member of Treasury raised an important question that we think is worth further consideration: Can we put Treasury’s dedication to conventional practices on the same plane as the preservation of a significant university tradition? We write this article to ask SU to rethink its policy of rejecting appeals from student groups whose budget items were cut due to the 90 percent rule. In our particular case, rethinking this practice would enable KWUR to maintain one of Wash. U.’s dearest traditions.

Since our appeal on Tuesday, we have started a GoFundMe page so that we can put on a scaled-down version of KWUR Week. We are not very comfortable with the idea of being dependent on charitable donations, especially since there is an innumerable amount of other organizations in need. KWUR Week should not have to rely on donations and gifts; events like ours should be funded through the money that already exists as part of the student activity fee.

Additionally, we would like to thank Architecture School Council for their generous donation. Demonstrations of collective giving like this confirm our belief that KWUR Week is integral to the Wash. U. community at large.

Student Union, we ask you to reconsider our appeal so that we can carry the tradition of KWUR Week into its 27th year and ensure its place in Wash. U.’s future.

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