WERS’ potential W-E-R-Mess

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 11, 2014

At issue: WERS administrators decide to stop paying student managers.

Our take: The decision comes as a means to an unclear end.

Last month, WERS administrators announced that the public radio station would no longer pay its student station managers, continuing along its recent path toward increased professionalism. Or financial prudence. Or independence from Emerson. 

Or—well, its only clear path is toward muddle. WERS, in recent years, has made historically unprecedented changes, like hiring its first-ever professional host and canceling two long-running, popular urban music shows. And its reasoning is mired in contradictions that make it difficult to discern the station’s real goals. Is WERS trying to cut its budget because of pressure from Emerson, as general manager Jack Casey said last year, or was the decision to rescind those student paychecks Casey’s alone, as he said more recently?

Though Casey said that he has pushed students not to rely on their WERS salaries, questions still remain about whether this decision was ever expected by students or foreshadowed by management. It remains to be seen how the station is planning for the positions of students that cannot afford to continue at the station with their labor unpaid. 

There is also the question of whether the budget cuts are linked to the station becoming financially independent from the college or because Casey doesn’t like the idea of paying student participants. While it is valid to worry that some students will apply only for the paycheck--rather than the educational experience the station provides--the professional host continues to be paid. If WERS cannot afford to pay everyone, it might not be fair that students, who ultimately run the station, will bear the brunt of the financial reductions.  

All of which is to say, what is WERS’ ultimate goal? Emerson College students were under the impression that WERS, like many other campus organizations, was a learning tool. But Jack Casey’s recent decisions obfuscate that thinking. It appears WERS is becoming more of a business at the expense of benefiting students as greatly as it could. After all, this entire fiasco has completely distracted listeners and staff members alike from the radio station’s main job: playing good music.