The campus radio station is a hallmark of the American college experience. Since FM broadcasting began to take off in the 1970s, college DJs have provided an alternative to mainstream culture, influencing the music students listen to and talk about – all from dimly lit rooms and basements. hidden on American college campuses.
With the advent of the internet, social media, and music streaming services, it’s easy to dismiss broadcasting as past its prime. But there are plenty of student-run radio stations that still do well, even within the SUNY system. Stations in Binghamton, Purchase, Geneseo and more are still broadcasting daily.
For the past three years, UB – the largest public university in New York State – has been deprived of it.
It’s certainly not a lack of student interest – ask Ana Litvinenko, the second who tried to bring broadcasting back to UB.
Litvinenko started the UB Broadcast Club with the intention of reviving WRUB, UB’s now-defunct radio station. WRUB folded in 2019 when Subcommittee 1 (or SBI), the nonprofit student organization that funded the station, was closed. In the three years since SBI’s disbandment, WRUB has yet to be successfully replaced.
“Coming to a school like Buffalo and seeing how big it is, and then realizing there’s no train station… it’s like, what are you doing?” said Litvinenko.
Then a freshman, the criminology major was looking for a way to share her love of music with the student body — and create a sense of community.
“It’s a great way to bring people together,” Litvinenko said. “And who wouldn’t want to tune in and hear student news, or listen to great music?”
So last spring, she took matters into her own hands. The first broadcast club meeting drew approximately 30 attendees, and the number of interested students continues to grow through social media and flyers posted on campus. But it was not easy to take off. The club still hasn’t received any funding or recognition from the student body. According to Litvinenko, it was difficult to get the station’s approval; she applied and was turned down twice.
“They are extremely skeptical about it. And no one is ready to give us space, no one is ready to make room for it,” she said.
Litvinenko isn’t the only one trying to fill the void left by WRUB. His efforts caught the attention of the team at Subject Media, an online collective that calls itself “Buffalo’s student-run media empire.”
The website, founded by a collective of UB alumni, was created from the ashes of WRUB and Generation Magazine, a campus publication that also lost funding with the fall of SBI. It features podcasts, blogs, and online radio shows from current and former UB students.
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“It didn’t seem like the university or the SA were that interested in keeping the station running, so we just decided to do it ourselves,” said Mike Vago, one of the alumni who started Subject. Media.
In 1993, Vago co-founded the most recent version of WRUB. Being part of the station has had such an impact on him that – even 25 years after graduating – he is still dedicated to bringing the college radio experience to UB.
“Leading WRUB in the 90s taught me how to run an organization, how to motivate people, how to solve problems when you don’t have money,” Vago said. “WRUB was really the beginning of my life as a creative person.”
The power of broadcasting has changed a lot since Vago was in college; people turn to streaming services and social media to tell them what to listen to, not FM radio. But he hopes Subject Media can recreate the dynamic of WRUB, where students had the influence and power to share whatever they wanted with their audience.
Vago and Subject Media encouraged Litvinenko to join the Subject team. But for now, Litvinenko still hopes to launch a traditional radio station on campus, complete with a professional studio and an FM broadcast.
“I just feel like there are so many opportunities and the school just seems to refuse to turn it on,” Litvinenko said.
With or without university approval, equipment, or dedicated space, Litvinenko and the UB Broadcast Club are determined to bring radio back to campus. They’re set to host more get-togethers throughout the semester, where all budding DJs are welcome to bring their passion to the fledgling station.
Meret Kelsey is Associate Art Editor and can be reached at [email protected]
Meret Kelsey is Associate Art Editor at Spectrum.
Photo: Courtesy of Guy Allegretto