Students of WRAS 88.5 FM file appeal against GSU-GPB partnership

logoAlthough the Georgia State – Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) partnership to obtain 14 hours of analog air-time from WRAS 88.5 FM went into effect on June 29, students of the station filed an appeal against the decision with the Georgia Board of Regents (BoR) on March 12.

Zachary Lancaster, president of the nonprofit organization Album 88 Alumni (A88A), said students were frustrated with all of their attempts to negotiate about the decision.

“The students have made multiple attempts to engage in meaningful discussion with both GSU administrators and with GPB but for naught,” he said. “The students have been taking this process one step at a time. This was the next logical step.”

Album 88’s current General Manager Alayna Fabricius and the station’s incoming General Manager Hannah Frank both worked with Lancaster by researching documents and policy to craft the language of the appeal.

Fabricius said she and others also believe the appeal was the next step after meetings with university administration and GPB executives failed to be productive.

“We believe that the university knowingly misappropriated student fee funds to benefit a non-student entity. By doing so, the university administrators broke the same policies they enforce,” she said.

While the appeal was delivered last week and the BoR has not yet replied, a response is expected to within 30 days, according to Lancaster.

However, The Signal reported on June 2 that then- General Manager Ana Zimitravich said the students of WRAS 88.5 FM were not going to appeal the decision about the partnership.

Lancaster said at the time, Zimitravich and others were engaged with university administration and were concerned that a potential appeal would deter away from any negotiations made.

“Ultimately those negotiations fell through,” he said. “The current leadership has been going from one step at a time starting with negotiations between themselves and GSU and / or GPB and then moving on to the next logical step, which is to appeal the processes used to fund this deal.”

Georgia State’s Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Douglas Covey was provided with an early draft of the appeal in December 2014, according to Lancaster. Dr. Bryce McNeil, assistant director of student media, also confirmed the draft was brought to Covey’s attention during that time.

“The choice to go to the BoR was at Dr. Covey’s suggestion seeing as he cannot overturn a decision made by the president and Dr. Becker would be unable to hear the appeal due to his connection to the deal itself,” Lancaster said. “By now the BoR should have sent a copy to GSU’s legal office.”

This current appeal is one of the larger Album 88 advocacy efforts to date, according to Lancaster.

“The discovery over the last few months of the gross disregard for the process that mandatory student activity fees is really the key point to be discussed right now,” he said. “Other things coming up are Expo 88, a student produced event at the Masquerade.”

Each year WRAS 88.5 FM hosts a fundraiser event.  This year the name has been changed to “Expo 88” and will be held on Saturday, April 4, according to McNeil.

Lancaster said this appeal goes beyond the actual agreement or it’s impact on the station.

“What has become clear during the development of this appeal has been that the GSU administration went to great lengths to keep this deal a secret, going so far as to circumvent BoR and institutional policy to do so,” he said. “This uncalled for desire for secrecy resulted in $676,000 of student funds being spent to primarily support a non-student entity, which is a pretty clear violation of policy (which are cited in the appeal document…”

Lancaster also said as alumni of Georgia State, it concerns him that administration has been “potentially increasing student fees in order to fund other projects with no clear student focus.”

“If this is the case the question must be asked, has it happened before? Will it happen again? Is the GSU administration actually handling funds, that all students are required to pay and are supposed to pay for support of on and off campus activities, properly in a way consistent with oversight policies?” he said. “These are all important questions to be asked at this point.”


1 Comment

  1. Actually the agreement between GSU and Georgia Public Broadcasting was for taking 14-hours A DAY of student airtime and allocating that to GPB.

    The appeal ultimately hinges on the misappropriation of Student Fee Money by the President…giving over the use of the recently purchased $700,000 transmitter/antenna (as well as other student-funded resources) to a non-student organization in violation of University regulations. Neither the voting members of the Student Fee Allocation Committee nor the Student Communications Council were made aware of the negotiations for the take-over, despite the fact that Dean Covey and other University Officials involved in the negotiation were involved in the discussions.

    The University was deeply involved with negotiations with GPB, and evidence from records then unavailable to the students, indicates that private agreement had been reached with Georgia Public Broadcasting as far back as December 2013 – six months before the agreement was publicly announced. In January, the student-fee funded WRAS Engineer as well as University Student Affairs officials were establishing the feasibility of the engineering links with GPB.

    It’s clear a Memorandum of Understanding was already in place and the University and GPB only delayed public announcement so that it would be made during Finals Week in Spring Semester. In fact, maintaining the secrecy of the communications between GSU and GPB is a constant subject in the emails between the parties.

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