Sunday, January 20, 2008


I started volunteering at CKMS in 1994, and I've continued to be a part of the station since then. I like to think that my skills improved during that period; the "She-Devils On Heels" chat show was an exceptional program, I think, and my "Repeater" old-time radio retrospective program was -- at the very least -- entertaining.

But now the Federation of Students has voted for a referendum: do students want to stop paying the $5.50 fee to keep the station running? If they vote no, CKMS will have to shut down; they will no longer be able to afford to operate.

Even back when I was a student, it was obvious that most of the student body DID NOT like CKMS. They thought it was amateurish and esoteric, which it tended to be. There were some excellent shows on the air, but for the most part it was pretty masturbatory, and sometimes downright awful.

So it's no surprise that a vocal "shut down CKMS" group arises every few years: these people hate the "alternative" designation of the station, they complain it doesn't represent students as a whole; they say it's difficult to pick up on the radio and that it isn't visible enough.

Strangely, about five years ago, these sorts of complaints prompted a radical reorganization of the station. A new Station Manager was hired and a hierarchy was developed. The fundamentals of CKMS changed as it began to slouch out of obscurity and into a new professionalism.

You see, previously it sort of hid away...the previous staff members were aware of their tenuous position, and they did not want to compromise. The new members of the staff want very much to raise the station's profile -- that's why they were hired -- but all of us knew the danger: if more students were aware of CKMS, more of them WOULD NOT LIKE IT.

Because CKMS' mandate from the CRTC is to be a telecommunications alternative. They can't be a station that plays popular music. It also doesn't help that the station is largely volunteer, and that the people most interested in it tend to be community members instead of students. And it REALLY doesn't help that there are some really bad programs on the air.

When I was on the board of directors, we faced a very serious situation where -- once again, but moreso -- an attempt was made to take over the station (in our case by changing the voting procedure). A mix of potentially well-meaning people and at least one person desperately obsessed with political procedure staged an odd sort of coup. The rest of us -- who were there because we wanted the station to succeed -- sat there dumbfounded as we were told "the students don't like you, you don't represent them, you're not visible enough." But that was the POINT of the new management: to get more students involved, to raise the station's profile, to ultimately GROW.

So now that the referendum is approaching -- headed partially by a former board member, who we always suspected was in it for a purpose of his own -- the students will decide whether or not the station continues.

I'm of two minds about this: if the students don't like it, obviously no amount of good-will will get them involved. They have been invited in, but unless they adhere to the CRTC's "alternative programming" designation they will not be able to change things. And the majority of students are not interested in alternative programming.

So they have a right, as a group, to make this decision.

But you see, when I was a student, I paid for a LOT of stuff I didn't care about. I paid money every year for an expanded Student Life Centre, even though I knew it wouldn't be finished until after I left. My fees went towards all sorts of things that I wasn't involved in. The entire Physical Activities Complex could have fallen into a pit and I wouldn't have noticed...but the University spent a ton of my money promoting squash and hockey and swimming...

I viewed my University career as being part of a community. I didn't get involved very often, but I was still happy that stuff was going on even if I WASN'T INVOLVED IN IT. That's what communities are like, and that's what you pay for. It's vibrancy. It's choice.

So I've never understood this idea that "if I don't take part in it, I won't support it in any way." I think that's selfish. A university, in my opinion, should not take that attitude. It leads to stagnation, defunding, and total dullness.

If CKMS' funding is cut off, I'll understand the reasoning behind it. But it doesn't bode well. It means that people are only looking after their own interests. The world won't end because of that but it will still make me sad.


Eli McIlveen said...

Hear, hear. When is the vote?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

The Imprint article just says "in February." If you go to you can see the article, it's on the front page. And you could even leave a comment if you like.

Since community members can't be involved in the vote, I haven't paid attention to any date announcement.

Kimber said...

Whoa. End of an era, methinks. I fondly remember my own volunteering days, and all the political bullshit that went along with them. Still, it would be a shame if the community lost CKMS.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Did your experience as a board member teach you -- as it taught me -- that you never wanted to serve on a board again?

Kimber said...

YES. Unequivocally!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Isn't that sad? The people who actually have experience end up being the people who can't stomach a second year.

I think the rules have changed so that you now HAVE to serve two years...a press-gang!

tseliot said...

"If CKMS' funding is cut off, I'll understand the reasoning behind it. But it doesn't bode well. It means that people are only looking after their own interests."

Supporters of defunding were looking after the common good. Some of them were no doubt either open to or actually supportive of the general idea of a campus radio station. But CKMS was rotten to the core, and students deserved better than to have such a corrupt organization affiliated with them.

To those who claim that station detractors should have been more "constructive" about how they wanted change to happen, I point out that the response in the 2006 AGM left no room for doubt over how criticism would be handled. Whatever it was that the critics were asking for, the bottom line is that a perfectly legal vote was obstructed illegally (and even CKMS's own lawyer is on the record in meeting minutes following that AGM that the vote that Heather Majaury obstructed was completely legal -- Heather actually violated CKMS's own bylaws to stop it).

Other examples of corruption at CKMS include conducting meetings in a poisoned environment, obstructing student access to budget and governance information that was their right as shareholders (which CKMS's own attorney admitted), and breaking referendum rules repeatedly.

The opportunity to reform CKMS was taken off the table by CKMS itself. And not only was this a failure of the CKMS establishment -- it was a failure by well-wishers who thought the appropriate response to the circumstances was to goad the CKMS establishment on in its all-or-nothing attitude rather than pressuring it to reform. These people may have meant well, but in the end they contributed to the demise of CKMS.

I leave you with comment that may be of particular interest:

You may be right here, in regard to most voters, but I would like to point out that the corporate behaviours of CKMS are what turned me against it. As a proponent of diverse and open media outlets, and as a former DJ and huge supporter of, and believer in the utility of, radio broadcasting, I *should* have been in CKMS’ corner. However, after hearing repeated tales of the professional habits of its management and the lack of student involvement, I definitely became a supporter of removing the fee. I think a campus radio station is a great idea for the University of Waterloo, I just don’t think it should be CKMS; at least not the CKMS we have now.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

CKMS was "rotten to the core" and a "corrupt organization?"

Show me evidence of that and I will evaluate it. I find it strange that those who cried "corruption" did so on the basis of anecdotes that they never took constructive action on. Whisper campaigns sure, and anonymous exposes with no substantial references, and occasional outbreaks at meetings about irrelevant personal grudges...

...but if CKMS was supposedly so "corrupt" and "rotten," why didn't anybody take this to authorities at the University? If the case was so good -- and simply wasn't based on "I don't like the way Heather treated me -- why didn't anybody ever DO anything about it?

The defunding was not acting on any evidence of corruption, it was -- as far as I could see -- a collection of students who didn't want to pay the fee, with input from one or more disgruntled ex-members...ex-members who never exposed their grievances to scrutiny in any useful way.

Care to explain how Heather obstructed a vote during the AGM you mentioned? The language regarding proxy voting was challenged at the meeting and, rather than go through a process where the lawyer could vet the language and explain it to everybody's satisfaction, a critical vote was demanded immediately based on the suddenly-exposed ambiguous language. In addition, there were questions about the legality of a document that a board member used.

Heather did not in ANY WAY obstruct the vote. When these issues were discussed, a motion was made to suspend the meeting until the language could be checked out, and the vote was taken under both the old and new proxy-voting interpretation...AND THE VOTE PASSED UNDER BOTH SYSTEMS.

Your suggestion that Heather somehow "obstructed" the vote is sheer fantasy.

Rob T said...

hi i am an irish guy who worked in the station for 2 months even though i didn't like some of the programming i thought it was a great place to work in. i had plenty of great times in the station and will never forget it. i am deeply sorry that the station might be closing as i was hoping to return there ah well you will have small minded people looking after their own interests and not caring for the enjoyment of others :(

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I agree, Irish guy. :)

Though since I wrote the post, I've come to suspect more and more that the REAL impetus for the referendum was from a few people who simply hated Heather.

That sounds incredibly petty. As far as I can tell it was. Sometimes you need to cripple resource in order to enact personal revenge, I guess.