Author: Alyssa Hui
On Feb. 22, 2002, at 2:22 p.m., WSUM officially became the first radio broadcast, student radio station at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dave Black, the General Station Manager and co-founder of WSUM, along with John Wiley, the 28th Chancellor of UW-Madison, reflected on the challenges they faced to start something like this 17 years ago.
Black said one of the main challenges of getting started was the resistance and opposition he faced from those who lived in Montrose, a small Town in Dane County, Wisconsin.
“The people in Montrose didn’t want a radio tower built in their town,” Black said. The main reason for that was because they didn’t want to look at the tower.”
Wiley added that he never thought there was any serious impact of the tower on the Town of Montrose.
“A few of them fought very hard to prevent WSUM from putting a tower in their town,” Wiley said. “The towers wouldn’t impact their lives, businesses, or anything else. It’s not much of a town to begin with.”
Wiley described the day they trekked out to the Montrose Town council meeting to give a presentation, which addressed the concerns and opposition from the community. He said they received hostile questions, flak, and disapproval.
The Town of Montrose continued their fight and resistance by suing the Board of Adjustments for a second time. The town also filed a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the construction on the tower.
“They sued the board because they wanted the university to back off from supporting us,” Black said.
Wiley said he was threatened by a person who said: “the tower can go up, but it’s not going to stay up long.”
Despite this, Black, Wiley, students, and other community members continued their push for a student radio station on campus.
“We persevered. I was strongly in support of a student radio station, a proper station,” Wiley said. “It was long overdue, and with Wisconsin being such an important university, we needed this for our 40,000 students.”
Dave addressed that one of the hardest parts of starting WSUM was spending so much time in court.
“The hardest part was spending three years in court, and students from the 1993 to 1997 classes knew they wouldn’t be on the air,” Black said. “But, they were protesting and fighting for future generations.”
WSUM finally had a place on campus where they could broadcast out of a station.
“In 2009, we moved into the Student Activity Center at 333 East Campus Mall,” Black said. “Rogers Howard was a significant person in making sure that WSUM was a part of the SAC master plan.”
17 years later, WSUM continues to grow as a community and offers programming in talk, sports, music, and news. As of this year, the station added podcasting for students to engage in.
In addition, the station launched a second stream called FreeFlow in 2018 which provides more opportunities for students to be on the air.
“I want to provide more opportunities for students so that nobody feels excluded, and I want us as a community to provide the best programming for our listeners,” Black said.
Students at UW-Madison shared that they are excited for the current projects happening at the station and how that will impact future generations to come.
“WSUM is such an interesting, lovely, and special community that has been a huge part of my collegiate experience outside of my academics,” Station Manager of WSUM Alice Alexeeva said. “Everyone works together especially on projects that will make an impact beyond graduation.”
The program director of WSUM, Tyler Dallman has worked at the station for over two years. He added that WSUM has been expanding its programming in recent years.
“WSUM offers such unique opportunities to students, especially with the music and talk scenes expanding,” Dallman said. “This expansion is giving all that room for people to get their word out and gives students a voice in radio.”
Wiley and Black hopes WSUM will continue growing and expanding in the years to come with more students arriving on campus.
“17 years is a significant amount of time,” Wiley said. “WSUM has gone through several generations of student bodies already, and with many more to come, they will continue to provide services for the campus and for the community.”