2005-06/Jun Kevin writes Bullhorn about resigning

Posted June 8, 2005: Below is a letter I sent to the Bullhorn several months ago for publication; sadly, they choose not to print this. I offer this here as a greater explanation as to why I have resigned as a member of the programming committee and a DJ at KRFC. I felt it dishonest to continue my participation in an organization that clearly I could no longer believe in. -Kevin

Dear Bullhorn,

Imagine you are playing a game with exact rules of play. Now, also imagine that these rules can be momentarily ignored each time only certain players wish to score a goal. Would you still play the game? I wouldn't; so, last Tuesday I resigned in protest from the Programming Committee at KRFC. Others did too.

I did so not because any special interest of mine had been threaten (weeks ago I offered to give up my regular show to help derail a scheduling gridlock). I did so because I have become increasingly disillusioned with the role the programming committee serves in the decision-making process at KRFC.

What began, I believe, as a radio station founded on the principles of an open, democratic governance has, in reality, become an organization where fewer and fewer of us are being allowed a part in any of the key decisions being made (i.e., recent sale of our jazz vinyl collection).

When this committee got started (I am an original member), we were told that we (as a representative body) were to serve the de facto role of programming manager and that our oversight would entail all programming issues.

We spent a good deal of time at startup working out exact procedures of operation that we all hoped would ensure a fair and judicious arena for the discussion and implementation of key programming decisions. Some of us felt it fundamental that we create a committee operating-structure that would eliminate as much as was possible the threat of any one personality among us becoming so influential as to dominate our decisions.

Many also felt it essential that our committee function as an autonomous entity, independent of both the Board of Directors and the station manager. We had no gripes with either; we simply felt it wise that as the one body that would be representing diverse populations at KRFC (e.g., programmers, listening members, the general public) we needed this autonomy in order to be an effective (and fair) voice for those we represented. Some of us saw ourselves as a reasonable check and balance; one of several, we hoped, that would instill in our ranks the trust we felt vital for our success.

Sadly, that legacy is now in serious jeopardy. In fact, over the past year, I have witnessed the gradual emaciation of our committees right to exist autonomously as more and more of the real decisions are being made by only one person. As it now stands, I believe the committees actual function has become a dubious one: it serves to simply create the illusion as if programming decisions are being made in a participatory-democratic manner when in fact they are not.

Let me give just two recent examples that demonstrate why I believe the PC lacks the empowerment it needs. Several weeks ago, the committee voted in consensus to make a minor adjustment to our existing schedule. We took some pain to discuss the pros and cons. Our recommendation was an informed one that alleviated several scheduling pressures in a manner that was fair to all parties involved, one that did not undermine the intent behind our current programming schedule. Problem was, the station manager was not in attendance and has since vetoed the recommendation.

Last week a member of our committee was dismissed by the station manger. The dismissal came the day following the publication of a letter written by the person dismissed which voiced legitimate concerns over the loss of what many of us see as an invaluable, community-owned cultural asset. Given that no substantiated reasons were given, its difficult to see the dismissal as anything but a retaliatory responseone employed to silence what I see as justifiable democratic dissent.

To not have involved the programming committee first (it serves as oversight of the programmers) regarding the dismissal, is a further marginalization of our committees right to conduct its own business. We have exact rules of governance (sanctioned by the Board of Directors) that state clearly how a member of our committee can be removed (e.g., by a 3/4 committee vote) but these rules were ignored by the station manager.

As the current facilitator, I felt it only proper that I formally contest the dismissal. I requested that we be presented with a full accountability of the grounds for dismissal so that we (as a committee) could decide the issue. I made known (via e-mail) my intention of challenging what I saw as a violation of the committees own governance rules. In doing so I was accused of being devious, of acting in bad faith, of willfully conspiring against consensus by springing a trap.

Having had my full of such accusations, I resigned.

Increasingly of late, key language which underwrites the stations Mission Statement is regularly employed as a tactic to derail good faith efforts made by those of us who advocate what we believe is the better role for the PC (e.g., an autonomous existence).

I have already personally witnessed two members of this committee being charged with unsubstantiated crimes because they openly spoke their minds. The first time (Spring 2004), the committee stopped such an egregious attack on our autonomy. This time, weve not been allowed to do so.

Twice now (and what delightful irony!) the KRFC Mission Statement (written to protect and allow for democratic expression) has been used to censor (and in retaliation against) members of this committee who have dared to speak up.

Now, I don't seriously believe any of this is a conscious effort by any one person to supplant democratic governance with a Stalinist style of democracy, one replete with commissars and expulsions to gulags. I see it more like this: some are playing with matches inside the barn. In departing, some advice: Stop doing so or youre going to inadvertently burn everything to the ground!