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Conservative students’ ‘Deplorable Radio’ show remains banned from university airwaves

Radio official said she suspended students because she ‘needs that sense of finality’

The “Deplorable Radio” show at the University of Minnesota-Morris remains suspended indefinitely from the university’s radio station, prompting the student hosts of the show to argue they were booted because they’re conservative and politically incorrect.

The university, meanwhile, maintains the show was suspended for “multiple violations” of station policy.

The suspension has in effect become a de facto expulsion as station officials have refused to allow the student radio hosts back on the air for now and only promised a review on whether to let their show return to the airwaves sometime in 2018. The student hosts say they had sought an immediate appeal but officials ignored that request.

“I would like to reiterate that you can submit a letter of appeal next semester for the Executive staff to re-evaluate your position in KUMM,” station manager Carter Young told the student hosts in an email obtained by The College Fix.

The “Deplorable Radio” show was hosted by Minnesota students Brandon Albrecht and Tayler Lehmann on KUMM, the university’s radio station. As The College Fix reported last month, the show was abruptly yanked from the air after Albrecht used the word “tranny” during a live broadcast to refer to a transgender individual.

The station manager called the police and had the students immediately shut down their show and escorted out of the building, a video of the incident shows.

Albrecht and Lehmann were subsequently told by university officials to voluntarily resign and that they would be voted out of the KUMM student radio group in the next meeting if they refused to do so, the students told The Fix. But that vote never happened.

“We are still banned from the radio, but they never held a vote to kick us out like they said they would,” Albrecht said.

University officials maintain that Deplorable Radio was shut down because the hosts violated several radio policies. In a Nov. 22 statement posted to Facebook, the executive staff of KUMM offered a “clarification” for why the hosts were suspended:

On Wednesday, October 25th, our executive staff was contacted by a KUMM listener who had concerns about a show from the night prior (the 24th). The listener reported that hosts of the show “Deplorable Radio” had slurred speech and sounded intoxicated. Our executive staff agreed to pay close attention to their future broadcasts to determine whether there was cause for concern. The following week, Tuesday the 31st, multiple members of the KUMM exec staff listened to “Deplorable Radio,” and noted a number of policy violations. First, the hosts had an unapproved guest on the show and failed to notify executive staff as is strictly required by KUMM policy. Second, the hosts failed to play the required two songs from the “New Music” list (both on the 24th and 31st), an infraction of KUMM policy and station contracts. Additionally, the hosts used the offensive term “tranny” to disparagingly refer to one of the students on our campus. Though the student was not named, other details in the conversation made it plausible for someone to identify who they were referring to, and it was clearly used in a negative, hateful context. This is not a direct violation of FCC guidelines, as some members of our staff initially believed and erroneously told “Deplorable Radio.” Though we clarified in our first meeting with the show’s hosts that it was not, we apologize for any confusion our initial mistake caused. This type of speech, in the context it was used, could be damaging to a member of the Morris community and was a significant concern to the entirety of the executive staff. In addition, further investigation showed that on their previous show on the 24th, the hosts of “Deplorable Radio” failed to record telemetry data as is required by KUMM and the FCC, and failed to log the music they played on our chart tracking program, Spinitron, another KUMM requirement.

“At a subsequent meeting executive staff reviewed the show’s record and unanimously voted to suspend ‘Deplorable Radio’ for the rest of the semester,” the statement continued.

Young, in her email to the student radio show hosts, states that other radio shows have been suspended for as much, but does not cite examples, nor responded to requests from The College Fix seeking ones.

Albrecht disputes the claim that “multiple violations” led to their suspension.

“They failed to mention that the other reasons they came up with to suspend us were only found out after we had already been suspended,” he told The Fix. “We have audio of the meeting where they suspended us, and they never said a word about Spinitron, 2 new songs, etc.”

The Fix obtained a copy of the audio in question. In the course of the meeting, Young makes mention only of “a couple of things that you two have violated” and “two or three KUMM rules” that the hosts allegedly broke.

Young referred to the unapproved guest and the “profanity” the hosts used, but nothing else. Virtually the entire meeting is devoted to the hosts having said “tranny” on-air, according to the 42-minute audio recording.

When asked by the hosts what the third rule they violated was, Carter replies “unclear,” chuckling while she does so. Later, she suggests that the hosts should voluntarily withdrawal from the club, telling them: “I feel like it’s just better for KUMM if I don’t have to worry about future incidents with you both.”

When asked why they should voluntarily resign if they’ll just be suspended indefinitely, Carter replied “I need that sense of finality,” according to the recording.

“I don’t like to leave things half-finished,” she added.

Albrecht said that at a recent meeting the KUMM board “reminded everybody of some rules several times, like logging music into Spinitron, playing two new songs per hour, etc.”

“Apparently not everybody has been following the rules,” Albrecht said, “but everybody else just gets a friendly reminder to follow the rules instead of getting suspended from the radio.”

Terence Pell, the president of the public interest law firm the Center for Individual Rights, told The Fix via email that “the school’s shifting efforts to find some sort of neutral basis for cancelling the show suggests that these after-the-fact reasons are really a pretext for suppressing a point of view that the school did not want broadcast from its radio station.”

“Permanently cancelling the show,” Pell added, “is an unduly severe penalty for what appear to be minor administrative infractions.”

Nico Perrino, communications director for the campus watchdog group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told The Fix that “student-run news outlets” have the latitude to make editorial decisions regarding the content they publish.

“If a student-run radio station does not want certain language used on its shows, it is within its rights to set those editorial standards,” Perinno wrote. “However, it should be transparent about those standards, and it should not fall back on misunderstandings of what constitutes protected and unprotected speech when setting those standards.”

MORE: Student radio hosts yanked from air, suspended after using the word ‘tranny’

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About the Author
Matthew Stein -- Swarthmore College