by, Madalyn Johnson, Web Editor
In response to rising COVID-19 cases at Manhattan College, the school’s on-campus radio station, WRCM, has closed for the rest of the spring semester. The radio station relaunched in spring 2019 after being shut down for a decade.
The closure of WRCM exemplifies one of the many times the pandemic has disrupted the various extracurricular activities available to Manhattan College students. The staff expressed disappointment about the challenges COVID-19 has created to what were once daily after-school rituals to students.
Michael Grabowski, Ph.D., chairman of the communication department, shared in an email stating how he’s saddened about WRCM’s shutdown. He is hopeful that with vaccinations and students doing their part to stay safe, campus life can soon resume how it was before the pandemic.
“It almost has become cliché to note how COVID-19 has upended many of the things we do,” he wrote. “Not being able to use the small DJ broadcast room for WRCM is one of those sacrifices. I hope that, with vaccines, mask-wearing, and social distancing, we can stop the spread of this virus and resume activities that we sincerely miss, like students broadcasting again from the WRCM booth.”
Thom Gencarelli, Ph.D.,a communication professor and currently on sabbatical, also sympathized with WRCM members and explained how saddened he was that the radio station had to close after recently re-opening on campus.
He shared in an email statement, “WRCM was resurrected as a student club during the 2018-2019 academic year after it had come to a rather unfortunate and inglorious end a decade earlier. It was resurrected by a group of students who had learned about its important history on campus and who, in a time of music streaming services, still thought it was important for the College to have and operate a radio station.”
Although upset, Gencarelli shared that he’s confident WRCM will come back based on the determination students in the past have shown to make sure a radio station exists for the MC community.
“It’s unfortunate once again that, as with so many other things, the pandemic disrupted the momentum of these students and the growing attention and listenership the station was beginning to attract, just one year into things,” he wrote. “But I think that as long as students want it, as long as there continues to be a committed group who makes it happen, WRCM will survive – that it will thrive. And I for, one, certainly hope it will continue to become as important to our campus community as it once was.”
Patrick Skwiot is a senior electrical engineering major at Manhattan College who is the program director for WRCM. As an electrical engineering major, Skwiot found the radio station to be a great outlet to unwind from stress and the work required from a major that contrasts the creativity behind being a DJ.
He explained that the conditions students had to work in during the fall while hosting WRCM didn’t drastically change the overall experience.
“It wasn’t all that different based from a real, micro perspective, like as a DJ, because you’re still in the booth, and for the most part most shows are either one or two people,” he said. “We had the microphones there six feet apart, at least, so that we were able to have a show of two people still in there. The only real difference is that you’re wearing a mask while you’re talking into the microphone so sometimes it can sound a little muffled, but it’s not very noticeable.”
Despite the fact students compromised having access to WRCM by taking safety precautions, COVID cases progressively rose this spring and left WRCM members with no other choice but to close.
“There was the outbreak as a whole that took place throughout the entire campus, that was definitely part of it,” Skwiot said. “A lot of DJs were in quarantine or tested positive, so back a few weeks ago we closed down for a week, then we reopened, and then cases throughout the school were still on the rise. So, we thought the best thing was just to close it because even if we didn’t necessarily have evidence that WRCM was the cause for any of this, it was just a precautionary reason.”
Regardless of Skwiot being disappointed about his last semester with WRCM ending abruptly, he still stands with the radio station’s decision.
“It’s definitely a bit of a bummer. It’s definitely disappointing that we’re not able to do this, but I think, in the long run, it’s the right decision. Hopefully, we can reopen later in the semester if the numbers go down, but everything is very tentative right now you know.”
Alex Nieves is another senior business analytics and computer information systems major who has a show on WRCM. As the technical director of the radio station he saw signs that this spring semester wouldn’t continue with WRCM, based on the problems that started in the fall.
“The issues we saw in the fall were just magnified for the spring,” Nieves said.
“The DJ booth can only be unlocked by members of the board and once cases go up and more DJs go into quarantine, we see more gaps in the schedule which makes it almost impossible to coordinate who can open the booth and when. At a certain point, it just became impossible to have someone on call at all times to unlock the booth without pulling people out of class, which we cannot do.”
Like Gencarelli, Nieves views the radio station as an integral part of campus life and believes that the energy and entertainment students bring to WRCM will soon return.
“Our DJs are passionate about live radio, and I also believe that WRCM was on the cusp of becoming a major part of campus life at MC. This in no way means that WRCM is gone for good. I truly believe that this is one of those ‘subject to change’ things, so once we have fewer cases and more vaccines, WRCM will roar back to life,” he said.
Even though times are difficult for WRCM now, Nieves wants to stress to the MC community to keep showing interest in WRCM and to listen when the show returns. The station is eager to make a comeback and demonstrate that even a pandemic can’t tune out college students.
“Keep WRCM in your thoughts. If you find the idea of college radio exciting, consider (when we go back online) to tune in whenever you get the chance. The great thing about radio is that you have almost endless hours of free music/ content curated by passionate music lovers. Consider how that might improve your daily walk to Starbucks, or how it would improve your commute back home or even a fun way to tune out the silence when you’re doing some light busywork.”
To learn more about WRCM, visit their website, http://www.wrcm.rocks.