Greetings President Bennet,

I a am graduate from the class of 2000 currently living and working in New York City as an independent/freelance game designer, digital arts producer, and interactive children’s artist.

I recently learned that Wesleyan is considering establishing a relationship with NPR. I love NPR – I regularly check in with WNYC on the internet at work and on my radio at home. I actually developed my affinity for NPR *during* my time at Wesleyan. Prior to attending Wesleyan, NPR was what my father insisted on playing in the car when he drove me to school, refusing to let me play my own selections. I thought he was a drag.

I was Program Director at WESU during my senior year at Wes and an active member and DJ throughout my college career. WESU was my primary social outlet outside of my major, COL. During my first semester at Wesleyan, I tried running cross country and being a coxswain for the women’s crew team, but these athletic social opportunities felt too competitive and time consuming for my own needs. Other university clubs were defined by identity or political action or a single academic interest – worthy reasons to come together indeed (and ones that occasionally did draw me in), but again not what I needed socially.

I needed a place where I could get to know people (students and Middletown residents alike) with very different outlooks, backgrounds, tastes, and interests who, united, represented Wesleyan students’ common traits: integrity, intelligence, independence, compassion and curiosity. I craved a community where everyone was a novice and, later, a teacher – most of the DJs at WESU are trained by other WESU DJs and in turn become trainers of still other DJs. It is a remarkable example of “passing the torch” at Wesleyan, and anyone can do it! No matter your taste in music or talk radio, your athleticism, your affiliations. You can commit tiny amounts of time or volumes of it, depending on how much you can spare between you classes, work-study, and other commitments.

WESU was – and remains – a model of everything that makes Wesleyan the diverse, outstanding, tolerant institution that I love and am proud of. At 88.1 WESU, I met people from Middletown, established relationships with students in different years, discovered a creative outlet, took a much needed break from writing, analyzing and researching, achieved management skills, and made some very good friends. Friends that I would invite over to my house on Lincoln to cook a dinner. We’d switch back and forth between our friends’ programs and NPR’s cooking program.

Some of these WESU peers were really just happy and kind acquaintances until recently – several re-enter my life every year or two. And *now* we listen to NPR/WNYC in my apartment on Saturday night while we’re getting a dinner ready before band practice or while preparing grant proposals for social art projects. Or while visiting a common friend in Boston.

Middletown already has NPR. I listened to its broadcast recently as I approached Middletown one Tuesday afternoon on my way back to New York from a hiking trip in Vermont. As I did back in 1998, I kept tuning the dial to 88.1 WESU trying to hear my peers, but the signal wasn’t coming in and so I’d flip back to NPR. I didn’t get to hear WESU very much North of Middletown, but after walking around and admiring the changes to the campus and returning to my car, the signal came in strongly. I turned to my boyfriend and smiled proudly, “I used to have a show on this radio station! It’s the oldest non-commercial radio station in the whole country. Isn’t Wesleyan awesome?!” Then I sighed and listened, grateful to be able to tune the radio dial to the station I wanted to listen to. Not one prescribed to me by my father or someone else.

I returned the dial to NPR once WESU’s signal broke down. Happy to hear NPR, but grateful for other options. Grateful for variation. Embarrassed that Middletown has a more community-oriented, diverse cultural offering than NYC – at least on the tuner. That sunny autumn afternoon in Connecticut after Columbus Day weekend stirred my pride in Wesleyan – the independent spirit which WESU has always represented in my heart.

I sincerely hope that you will take alumni opinion into account as you consider moving forward with this plan to disfranchise WESU DJs and listeners. I am confident that the community members at WESU will do what it takes to become economically viable, through the support of contributions, tight management, and less invasive structural rethinking (sponsors or underwriting for WESU events, but not WESU programming?).

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.

With warm regards,

Catherine Herdlick

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