For the faculty of Wake Forest University, the hush order given to reporters at the university’s WFDD-FM last September came too close for comfort.”I’ve never seen anything rile the faculty on this campus like this did, and I’ve been here 11 years,” says law professor Ronald Wright. “A lot of faculty members identified with those reporters. We’re both in the business of telling the truth.” “What has occurred on our campus violated certain ‘givens’ about what a university should be: a place where freedom of thought and expression thrive,” said this month’s report by an ad hoc committee appointed by the faculty senate. The defense of free speech on the campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., has whipped up antagonisms, uprooted most of WFDD’s news staff, and required lots of long, tense meetings, but the issues may be nearing resolution.
Five months after the conflict developed between Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and its public radio station, WFDD, the faculty’s Senate Ad Hoc Committee on WFDD released this report Feb. 2, 2000. See also coverage in Current and case study on the conflict in the Public Radio News Directors Guide. Events Triggering This Inquiry
Proposed Guidelines on Confidentiality Policy
The Public Trust and Internal Management at WFDD
The Committee’s Process
Memo from university Vice President Sandra Boyette to university Counsel Leon Corbett
Separate statement by member Michael Curtis
Report to the University Senate on the WFDD Matter
In October 1999, the President of the University Senate appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on WFDD. She asked the committee to inquire into events at public radio station WFDD during September 1999 and to report to the University Senate with proposals for avoiding such events in the future.
After questioning by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has begun an internal review of its refusal of equipment grants to a North Carolina public radio station that carries 90 minutes of church programming on Sundays. Since early this year, NTIA has been threatening to rescind a $175,000 grant to Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., for tower reconstruction at WFDD-FM, the university’s NPR-member station. NTIA grants officer George White told the university in a March 21 letter that it could receive the grant only if it dropped the religious programming, according to Helms.
Helms, a friend of Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn, intervened April 27 with a letter to NTIA Administrator Larry Irving, questioning the decision. As long as NTIA’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program exists, Helms said, ”qualified recipients should not be discriminated against for broadcasting, once a week, a Sunday school and church service.”
NTIA this month informed the station that its grant decision was on hold and will be reviewed by the agency. It was not clear at Current press time whether NTIA was reviewing its broader policy rejecting grant requests from other public radio stations that carry some religious programming.