Representatives of the Western Illinois University administration and board of trustees faced a standing-room-only crowd Friday upset over the university’s decision to end funding for Tri States Public Radio next year.
The cuts will cost Tri States about half of its annual $1 million operating budget, according to GM Jonathan Ahl.
Ten audience members at the WIU board meeting in Macomb spoke out against the defunding, TSPR reported. “For the price of three administrators, the station can continue to broadcast news and programs to its many, many listeners,” said Elaine Hopkins. “If it dies, goodwill towards WIU will die with it. Think about that. These people are mad in this room. Stop this plan today.”
More participants were waiting to speak at the end of the 20-minute comment period. Board Chair Carolyn Ehlert Fuller declined to extend the comment period.
“At that point, someone in the crowd called out ‘I stand with Tri States Public Radio,’” according to the station’s report. “Others followed and much of the audience stood and applauded for more than a minute.”
Following the meeting, WIU President Jack Thomas told reporters that the school’s deficit spending reached $4 million last fiscal year, with another deficit projected for this fiscal year.
“We have some very serious budget challenges,” Thomas said. “And in order to continue to move this institution forward and to make sure it’s viable and to continue to provide the quality of education that we’re known to provide, something has to give.”
Ehlert Fuller agreed. “We have to look at what do we do financially to save the university,” she said. “And therefore we support the decision that was made by the university.”