The positive change at WHCL-FM

I need to tell this story.

It’s 1982, and I just finished my freshman year at Hamilton College. Hamilton had a student housing lottery at the time, which meant that rising seniors picked their dorm living situations first, then rising juniors got to choose, then there were rooms allocated for incoming freshmen, then whatever was left was available for the sophomores.

And sophomores would often try to find a senior with a good housing lottery number to buddy-buddy with, because a senior could get a room in a suite (4-5 dorm rooms with a shared living / dining space), and bring those rising sophomores into the suite as dorm mates).

Essentially the other option at the time was for rising sophomores to try their luck in fraternity housing, because honestly, the only other option for some students was the Bristol Campus Center Barracks, which essentially were a series of bunk beds in the Bristol Campus Center building until available housing could be acquired.

And at the time, I was a rising sophomore with a putrid lottery number. I’d have a better chance of getting a dorm room if I pitched a tent in the Root Glen.

And it wasn’t like I was pledge material for the frat houses. I wasn’t super-rich, so I couldn’t join Alpha Delta Phi. I wasn’t a pre-med or pre-law, so Chi Psi was out of the question. I didn’t play lacrosse, so Delta Upsilon was not an option. I wasn’t an LL Bean devotee, so Theta Delta Chi didn’t want me. Psi Upsilon only housed football players, Sigma Phi was for Deadheads and stoners, Delta Phi were pre-gamers for their eventual membership in Alpha Alpha (also known as AA), and Delta Kappa Epsilon – yeah, no, that place was on double secret probation all the time.

In fact, the only fraternity that even took me in was the on-campus independent Emerson Literary Society, and even then, they were short of members and I was a warm body whose very existence helped keep the fraternity from closing. But eventually, ELS had a great recruiting drive in my sophomore year, and there were so many pledges that joined, I eventually had to leave the house as there wasn’t enough room for everybody. But ELS and I both had our mutual understanding. I was there to help fulfill a need, and once that need was done, they would thank me and wish me luck in my future endeavors.

It’s kinda funny now, because the ELS house eventually turned into the Sadove Center, and it currently houses the WHCL-FM studios. In fact, the main studio is two dorm rooms away from where I rested in my sophomore year.

And here’s where our story goes.

For the past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, my old college radio station, WHCL-FM, has gone from in-person broadcasting to remote broadcasting. And in doing so, it also allowed an opportunity for radio station alumni to host shows remotely, to help fill out the broadcast day.

And trust me, I’ve been very thankful to have the opportunity to return to the radio station and broadcast once again, even if my “studio” is 100 miles away and my broadcast equipment is a free copy of Audacity and some bumpers that my friends made for me. Still, it’s all good.

But now there’s news from the station that will benefit the student broadcasters. After a year of remote broadcasting, WHCL-FM is slowly re-opening the station to live, in-studio broadcasting. That’s right, students can now go to the Sadove Center and go live on the air.

Now, some students still currently have the option of broadcasting remotely, which is a good thing in itself. And there will still be a three-hour block for DJ Mark Fuller and his really fun “Mohawk Valley Memories” program, a commercial-free classic oldies show.

And yes, for now, the Nightowl Radio Show will continue. And I’m blessed that that’s happening.

Because as thankful as I am that my show (which is now reaching its first “return-iversary” of broadcast) still airs on the station, I’ve made it clear to station management that I will not take away a prime spot that prevents a current college student from experiencing the joy of broadcasting. The station is primarily for undergraduates to experience broadcasting, as well as to practice their public speaking (this is Hamilton College, we don’t do the “um” and “er” and all that).

Honestly, this is a good thing. Because if the students can broadcast from the station facilities itself, it also means that, little by little, we’re beating back COVID-19. Students are getting vaccinated, which means they can also participate in in-class learning, as opposed to remote learning. That’s a positive as well.

And personally, being back at WHCL for the past year has been, for me, a return to one of the happy times in my life. A time when I felt like I could actually be my own person, instead of being some knucklehead who needed to stay on campus to get away from his toxic family, or being a warm body in a frat house that was in danger of losing its existence due to low recuritment. Truly, WHCL was, and still is, a safe haven for me.

In fact, this morning, I just uploaded my new show for Friday night’s broadcast. And next week’s show – airing the first Friday in May – will be my 50th broadcast as an alum. Wow.

It’s hard to believe that anything culturally positive came out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then again, I just finished another radio broadcast, and producing the episode was another smile-inducing moment for me.

So, yeah. I’m hella good for this.

For as long as the station will have me, I’ll be happy to have the station.

And come the day when there’s more students than radio slots available, I’ll step aside.