Radio Station Operating Under Limited Budget

A photo taken outside of WFNP’S radio room located in the Student Union Building. The station has recently seen a cut in their budget which has also resulted in a cut of staff. Photo by Rob Piersall.

During the Fall 2017 semester, WFNP: The Edge, SUNY New Paltz’s radio station, lost well over half their funding. 

Every semester, each club on campus is required to submit a charter form to the Student Association (SA) to prove they still exist and operate on campus. These are required to be submitted prior to the given deadline each semester. Last semester, the deadline was Sept. 25.

WFNP failed to submit their club charter form online, and in turn, had to apply as a new club. 

A new club on campus in their first semester has a maximum budget of $2,000 in expenditures. This is a far cry from the radio station’s previous budget of $36,388. 

WFNP was forced to lay off their daytime DJs, who had their broadcasts streamed online, a function that they also had to get rid of due to the lack of funds. According to station manager Breanne Casucci, this meant that at least 25 members of WFNP were let go.

Casucci said she submitted the charter form prior to the SA’s deadline, but never received a confirmation email that acknowledged the paperwork was received. 

Chair of the Council of Organizations Gianni Marcel said the SA never received WFNP’s charter before the deadline and that it was not in their online databases. 

WFNP failed to send a representative to the second Council of Organizations meeting where Marcel announced that SA hadn’t received charter forms from a series of clubs, including them. 

Council of Organizations meetings are held bi-weekly where all clubs are required to meet and matters involving club organization and funding are discussed.

Because Casucci thought she submitted the form, she said she believed everything was in place. Though, Marcel said if the club was at the meeting, they would have heard her say a confirmation email would be sent out when the completed charters were received.

As the Sept. 25 deadline passed, WFNP was made aware that their budget was cut and were forced to charter as a new club. 

Marcel said that she was new to the position and was not aware of how some clubs, especially in the media house, operate and how important they are.

“If I was aware of how important it was, I would have been more on top of them especially since their office is right next door to ours,” she said. “But I was training as I was doing the job, so I treated everyone equally.”

“A representative didn’t come from radio [to the Council of Organizations meeting] so that was in the back of my mind, because at that point, I had to worry about the new clubs and that’s a whole different procedure,” she continued. “I was also trying to get the problems fixed with the existing clubs that had problems chartering. Everything happened all at once.”

With only a $2,000 maximum budget as they were considered a new club, the radio station sought to recoup some of the money they had lost to keep the station afloat. 

According to documents courtesy of the Student Association, they were able to receive $11,394 from SA to put towards their contractual obligations, an exception made by SA considering their importance to the community. 

“We made a request in order to try and get some of the services back,” said Elkyn Orellana, the Interim Director at the Center of Student Media. “We did and what was given to us was the money to be able to continue broadcasting on the airwaves. We prioritized that over having an additional online stream, otherwise we would have had to take 88.7 FM down where we are licensed and if we went down, it would go against FCC violations. Streaming doesn’t affect that part at all.”

WFNP is on the air from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights and 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekends while school is in session (Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 and Feb. 1 until April 30). The daytime stream aired exclusively online and acted as a platform for DJs to get accustomed to the soundboard before transitioning to having their program broadcast on the airwaves as a nighttime DJ.

According to Orellana, because WFNP are an FCC non-commercial station and have an actual frequency (they broadcast on 88.7 FM), they are not allowed to be off the air unless they make a request to the FCC saying that they need to go offline for a certain amount of time, which is why the radio station was more important to them than the online stream.

“If we don’t pay our fees to the transmitter, that takes our stream off the air,” he said. “It’s not about ending it with the school’s regulations, it’s more FCC required that, because we have a license that transmits over an FM frequency, it should always be filled with something, in this case our sound and music.”

After chartering last semester as a new club, WFNP had to start as a “Tier 1 organization.” 

There are three different designations for organizations on SUNY New Paltz’s campus: Tier 1, Tier 2 and services.

Tier 1 clubs are most exclusively for new organizations to the campus. The $2,000 maximum budget they may not exceed in their first semester of existence is put forth because it acts as a “trial period,” according to Marcel.

New clubs don’t normally have the time or necessities needed to exceed that money. After existing on campus through the first semester, once they charter again the following semester, they are bumped up to a Tier 2 club, according to Marcel.

Tier 2 clubs have the choice of requesting money as they go to meet club needs, or to apply to be a “line item.”

“The money radio lost circulated back into general programming,” said SA vice president of finance Fousseni Baba. “This is a huge amount of money all clubs can use. Clubs who aren’t line items can apply for money and be approved or disapproved. If you lose your funding, for example, it rolls back to general programming. This gives clubs an opportunity to have access to that.”

Clubs that are considered line items apply for a budget for the academic year and the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) either grants them what they applied for or they can deny them. 

Organizations with the line item designation have existed on campus for at least three semesters. However, the budget they receive as a line item must be spent entirely. This is why many clubs choose to stick with “general programming,” which means they request money when they need it and it’s either approved or denied by SA, according to Baba.

Finally, clubs may apply to be designated as a service, which is “a monster all in its own.” Your budget is determined by the BFC for the academic year, and even if you forget to do something like charter, your funds remain in tact. 

Clubs with the service designation are viewed differently by the BFC due to the service the club provides the community. An example of this would be with the Oasis Haven club.

WFNP was operating as a Tier 2 club and a line item, but Orellana says they could become a service in April when the BFC meets for a weekend and determines the budget for the 2018-19 academic year. 

“I’m going to put our requested budget in for next year as usual as it was in past years as a line item,” Orellana said. “BFC will make the recommendation. They are the ones that are actually going to move us over from a line item to a service item or not.

“I foresee us getting a webstream back,” he continued. “I don’t see why BFC would deny our budget again. The thing will be whether they keep us as a line item or move us to service.”