WKSU established a Community Advisory Council in 1978, but it was disbanded a few years later. Around 1990, there was a change in administration at Kent State University. The WKSU general manager felt the station needed a council to speak to the university administration – someone who could call the president of the university and talk about issues affecting the station. He created the Community Advisory Council, which had a very high profile at that time.
As time passed and the climate changed at Kent State, the council started to flounder. It was only meeting once a year and some of the most powerful people left. Current Executive Director and General Manager Al Bartholet began working to rebuild the council and institute guidelines. “We found ourselves in a situation where we kept adding and adding members, without specific functionality. We just thought, ‘hey that would be a good person.’ But it becomes too unwieldy. As we added people, we had no mechanism for letting go of people.” The council has held meetings to discuss its role and operations and has decided to implement terms for members. WKSU has put in place 1-, 2- and 3-year terms for the current Council; however, new Council members will serve for 3 years. As each 3-year term concludes, the member can be asked to serve again, depending upon the individual's level of involvement and desire to continue as a member of the Community Advisory Council. Bartholet says he anticipates some attrition as the council makes these changes.
The WKSU Community Advisory Council has several areas of focus which are reflected in its committees – executive, finance, development, nominating/council development, and geographic. The council had a programming committee in the past, but Bartholet says it was not effective. He says the goal is to make the council members an informed group of supporters who can take the station’s message to the public and let listeners know that any programming changes were carefully considered. He says the council still acts as a “safety net” for the station, a group that can communicate with the university administration or other organizations when the station can’t make its case directly.
When the council was restructured, Bartholet says they wanted to move away from meetings where staff spent two hours presenting. He says it now more peer to peer, with much of the work done in committees. In recent months, the executive committee has spearheaded the discussion of council roles and responsibilities and has decided to require that every Council member make a donation to the station. The development committee has focused on fundraising projects and policies and worked on the endowment campaign. The nominating/council development committee recruits new members and is developing an orientation program. The geographic committee works in the communities where repeater stations are located. Station staff works closely with the committees related to their departments.
Selection of members
Nominations come from the council nominating committee and station staff. The council makes recommendations. Bartholet says they consider what a person can bring to the table, for example, financial expertise, contacts, prominence in the community. He believes it is wise to always have vacancies so you have a slot open if a dream council member becomes available. He also says WKSU looks closely at emerging leaders, the people who will be running the community’s important organizations in the next five or six years.
Bartholet says it’s important to get the right people for the council and to give them specific tasks that are well defined. He says not to forget the social element of the group. “It’s been beneficial to help them get to know each other.” The WKSU council is adding a fourth meeting each year that will be more of a social get together.
Keeping up with the council takes a lot of energy, Bartholet says. “It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot more time and effort than you realize to write, correspond,
e-mail and keep people up to date.”
Thanks to Pam Anderson, WKSU Director of Communication, and Trish Gerber, WKSU Director of Development, for sharing information on the council.
This report was developed as part of Charting the Territory, SRG's national planning initiative for public radio that is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SRG member stations.
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