The following open letter has been posted at the request of the Pacific Lutheran University Alumni Board in response to the proposed sale of KPLU. The PLU Alumni Board is a self-governing, volunteer leadership council comprised of 16 member alums.
Alumni Board Letter Regarding KPLU
Dear fellow Alumni,
Like many of you, the announcement of our alma mater’s intention to sell KPLU was difficult news to hear. As the volunteer Board responsible for representing PLU’s more than 40,000 living alumni, the administration of PLU shared with us the news of the sale prior to the public announcement. Many other alumni representatives were consulted confidentially over the past 10 months in the consideration of this possibility. Yet even with that advanced consultation, the KPLU news felt initially like a significant loss for us and for the University. However, shock and loss quickly turned to acceptance and understanding as we openly discussed the rationale for this sale.
As the KPLU/KUOW news has been shared more broadly, at times a few strong voices have dominated the conversation, framing the merger in a purely negative light. It would be inaccurate to assume that these voices speak for all PLU alumni. While we are all entitled to opinions on the matter, the Alumni Board felt it important to share our collective support for the Board of Regents’ decision and highlight some facts we feel have been overshadowed in the past week.
- We believe that this was a strategic decision based on careful analysis of the future of radio and a concern about how best to sustain public media in the region for as long as possible. The process to reach this decision was lengthy and thoughtful. Representative donors, alumni and stakeholders were consulted.
- Student involvement at KPLU has been minimal for many years. Unlike alumni from the 80s and 90s, who remember robust and meaningful engagement, student interest has waned in recent years and the station was not providing a significant academic benefit to PLU’s core mission – student education.
- KPLU staff have done an amazing job in the past decade. This sale is not a vote of no confidence in their capacity, effort, or talent. Rather, it is a decision that acknowledges the significant difference between licensing and operating a radio station, and educating undergraduate and graduate students. The Board of Regents and administration are charged with strengthening and perpetuating the core educational mission for generations to come. Where core mission and business practice diverge, difficult decisions are often required.
- The university is in good financial shape. The last fiscal year ended with a significant budgetary surplus. Student enrollment exceeded their goals for this year, and Fall 2016 recruitment is tracking ahead of projections, at a five-year high. The sale of KPLU does not benefit the university’s operating budget, but rather invests the resources in the endowment to support future student scholarships, faculty and staff compensation, and professional development.
- KPLU and KUOW have nine hours a day of duplicated NPR content. This is the single biggest item on the KPLU budget at close to $1 million per year. KPLU and KUOW have considerable overlap in listenership and donor base; so public media donors are supporting two stations, which are spending millions on duplicative programming.
- Perhaps most importantly, KPLU’s jazz listeners will have full-time jazz at 88.5, and news listeners will still have great NPR programming, better signal coverage on KUOW thanks to the superior reach of KPLU’s network, and more resources for local news programming at 94.9.
KUOW is actively seeking input. We encourage you to share your thoughts on the voices and programming that you enjoy on KPLU.
This transition will take significant time for our community to process and accept. We hope this open letter helps in your discernment. Representatives of the Alumni Board are open and willing to hear from you, our fellow alums, in the coming weeks and months. Please know we invite your conversation, questions and concerns.
Once a Lute, Always a Lute.
The Pacific Lutheran University Alumni Board
Dale Haarr ’89, President
Linda Strand ’67, Vice President
Laurie Soine ’87, Immediate Past President
Scott Barnum ’77
David Chun ’84
Carl Field ’08
Noreen Hobson ’00
Jessica Holden Braunlich ’07
Isaiah Johnson ’96
Sara Kass ’88
Sal Mungia ’81
Jan Praxel ’70
Kelly Ryan ’10
Annette Stixrud ’61
Stephanie Tomlinson ’77
Mike Willis ’72