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Forum tackles UO's contract with KUGN.

Byline: GARRET JAROS The Register-Guard

Should the University of Oregon be affiliated with a radio station that broadcasts what some on campus consider to be "hate radio"?

The First Amendment, the UO's affiliation with KUGN-AM as "The Voice of the Ducks" and the programming of shows such as Michael Savage's "Savage Nation" were among the topics of a campus forum Thursday night.

The event, organized by the university's Center on Diversity and Community, was part of an effort to provide information and examine the legal and economic issues behind the university's affiliation with KUGN.

But some of the 55 people in attendance said respect, reputation and affiliation, rather than freedom of speech, are at the heart of the matter.

"KUGN directly influences our goals of diversity wanted by students and faculty," said panel member Matt Garcia, professor of history and ethnics studies.

Garcia, who works with minority students, was referring to a document called the Affirmation of Community Standards signed by a faculty advisory committee and the student and university senates two years ago. It states a commitment to promoting cultural respect and the rejection of bigotry and discrimination.

"Letting the radio station use the U of O logo is tantamount to taking a side and making a political statement - one not appreciated by minorities in this state or on this campus," he said.

The controversy erupted last month after students and faculty, upset with what they called "hate radio" talk shows on KUGN, asked university administrators to find a way to extricate the school from a contract that allows the station to bill itself as "The Voice of the Ducks." The station broadcasts UO sporting events.

University student Nicole Barrett, one of nine panelists, said the university administration's failure to end its relationship with KUGN "doesn't feel like an affirmation of rejecting bigotry.

"It says `commitment,' and I take that seriously," Barrett said. "Unless people make stands where they lose out sometimes, it really doesn't have that much meaning."

Panelist Dan Williams, vice president for administration at the UO, said the school's hands are tied on the issue. He said the university can't use its contract to dictate program content without a great risk of violating the First Amendment. In addition, the State Board of Higher Education has prohibited basing purchasing or contract decisions on politics. "Quite frankly, we're no less embarrassed than anyone in the community or the university about these circumstances," Williams said.

This is the fifth year of a five-year contract with ESPN Sports and KUGN, which is one of the 20 stations in the network, Williams said. He pointed out that when the contract was signed, KUGN's programming didn't carry shows such as "Savage Nation."

Garcia said he takes exception to the notion that the university can't act.

"We're experiencing a crisis of leadership in the administration," he said.

"They keep saying it's a First Amendment issue, their hands are tied or you can just turn off the radio. I call this academic elitism and cultural chauvinism on behalf of our administrators."

The forum was considered a starting point for dialogue around the issue, not a final word.

Before the forum ended, University Senate President Greg McLauchlan reminded everyone that there was a lot of common ground unearthed during the two-hour meeting.

"Everyone on this panel said they abhor the content on the radio program, and said they think the university should distance itself from KUGN," he said.

"So let's build on that common ground and see what we can do."
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Title Annotation:Radio: Many say the affiliation is a question of respect, not rights.; Higher Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 13, 2002
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