Dean Roderick Hart

Roderick Hart, Dean of the Moody College of Communications, speaks at the Texas Student Media board meeting.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Last March, outgoing Communication Dean Roderick Hart came to a meeting of the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, which oversees five student media entities, including the Texan, and relayed a message from President William Powers Jr.’s office: Don’t worry.

Worry about our finances, that is. The president’s office, Hart has told us, would give TSM $250,000 a year annually for three years to help stem the hemorrhaging of funds that TSM has experienced in recent years. 

We naturally applauded Powers’ largesse, and still do. The emergency funding, we hoped, would see us through the worst and prime us for the best.

But it’s not available in quite the way that we imagined.

The way the funding is set up, it is likely that TSM won’t see a single penny until this summer. That’s about a year and a half after we were told by Hart that we were being thrown a much-needed lifeline.

We appreciate the help and understand the challenges of securing money, especially in a bureaucracy like UT’s. But the main point here is that the administration doesn’t entirely seem to grasp the severity of our financial situation.

That’s not to say that they’re ignorant of it — far from it. They’ve seen our financials. Anyone can, they’re public record. But Hart’s comments, as well as others we’ve heard from college officials, just don’t seem to suggest any real motivating urgency on their part.

That puzzles us because there’s no real way of sugarcoating the situation: TSM has been burning through its reserves to stay afloat for the past several years, and without the money from Powers’ office, we’re just about broke. Up-to-date financial information likely won’t be available until around the time of the board’s next meeting Feb. 6, but as of the end of last semester, the situation looked very bleak.

Again, we thank the administration for its offer of help but fear that they might not have fully grasped the severity of the situation. Like most other newspapers, the Texan has recently faced some serious financial hurdles. Only serious solutions will comprehensively fix them.

Stan Richards talks to supporters Tuesday afternoon after an event celebrating the renaming of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations in his honor.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

A crowd filled the auditorium in the Belo Center for New Media on Tuesday in celebration of the new Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations.

“This is the greatest honor of my life,” said Stan Richards, founder of the advertising agency The Richards Group. “We have a new school just waiting to propel advertising to new heights.”  

The school, previously known as the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, changed its name in early September after a $10 million fundraising campaign. The school will continue to be housed under the Moody College of Communication.

“The department was already one of the top advertising schools in the country,” said Nick Hundley, Moody College director of communications. “This will only elevate it more.”

Student volunteers from the school wore shirts, printed with an imitation of Stan Richards’ notorious glasses, to commemorate the event. Richards received a commemorative picture of the naming of the school.

Moody College Dean Roderick Hart said the event came together almost effortlessly. 

“The fact that we’re able to name the department within the college is a big deal,” Hart said.

Noting that the department has always had the “most exalted” reputation, Hart said The Richards Group has long been a friend of the college. 

“Students from here go on to work in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other places,” Hart said. “The funds we raised will help us remain on the cutting edge of faculty and students.” 

Public relations senior Hugo Rojo said he couldn’t wait to see what new opportunities would become available through the school as a result of the increased support.

“A lot of the best students who graduate from the department go on to work for The Richards Group,” Rojo said. “Richards has always supported the college.”

The UT System Board of Regents tabled the discussion of KUT’s plans to purchase local station KXBT Wednesday. If the proposition is approved, KUT plans to split its musical and news programming between the two different stations.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

A Wednesday decision by the UT System Board of Regents has left radio station KUT in a temporary intermission, halting KUT’s plans to purchase local station KXBT. The board has not announced when it expects to address the proposition.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa requested the board table the matter at its July meeting because there were still lingering questions about the $6 million acquisition. The board did not specify what questions it needed answered, although an anonymous source close to the proceedings said the main question regarded the future of radio, according to the Austin American-Statesman. President William Powers Jr. attended the meeting and said he was willing to answer any questions the board had about the acquisition.

The board first announced KUT’s plans to acquire KXBT earlier this month in an agenda for the meeting. If approved, KUT plans to split its music and news programming between the two different stations.

College of Communication Dean Roderick Hart said he is also available to answer any questions the regents might have. KUT plans to purchase KXBT with a loan from UT’s Unexpended Plant Funds that it will pay over time. The College of Communication has offered to cover any remaining costs if KUT cannot fully pay back the loan.

“We feel strongly that this purchase is both financially sound and of enormous benefit to the University, to its students and to the greater Austin community,” Hart said.

Hart said besides opening up more internship opportunities, expanding KUT just made sense.

“KUT is already one of the finest NPR stations in the nation,” Hart said. “Located as it is in a well-educated city that also happens to be the live music capital of the world, having both all-talk and all-music stations on our campus makes all the sense in the world.”

Under the Texas Constitution, the regents must authorize decisions such as financial purchases, campus expansions, tuition changes and presidential appointments. Before the meeting, the board had made no indication of denying KUT’s request for acquisition.

Katy Aus, station manager at Texas Student Media’s KVRX, said she does not think KUT’s expansion will hurt KVRX’s
audience base.

“Our mission of providing ‘None of the hits, all of the time’ remains intact,” Aus said. “As a college radio station, we provide an irreplaceable product: exposure to new music, commitment to local artists and a wide spectrum of genres and specialty shows which are emblematic of that very specific college radio dynamic.”

Representatives from both the UT System and UT-Austin said they had no further comment.

The 98.9 KXBT-FM is currently Austin’s oldies music and talk radio station. The University of Texas is looking to buy KXBT-FM to facilitate a split between news and music broadcasts onto separate stations.

Photo Credit: Hayden Bernstein | Daily Texan Staff

The UT community and the city of Austin may encounter a different tune the next time they switch their radio to KUT’s 90.5 station if the UT System Board of Regents approves the buyout of a new station.

The Board of Regents will vote July 11 on whether to approve KUT’s purchase of KXBT’s 98.9 classic hits station, which serves the city of Leander. This move would switch all of KUT’s musical programming to 98.9. Border Media Business Trust, a Delaware common law trust, is selling the station for $6 million, or approximately $3.83 per audience member in its area. Both the Board of Regents and the Federal Communications Commission must approve the acquisition. If approved, KUT will use money from UT’s unrestricted Unexpended Plant Funds cash reserves to purchase the station and repay the funds with interest.

No student tuition or fee money will be used to acquire KXBT, according to the Board of Regents’ agenda.

College of Communication Dean Roderick Hart said this expansion will provide students with more chances to gain educational experience by creating a greater range of internship opportunities,

“This purchase is going to make a tremendous difference,” Hart said regarding the internships. “From a dean’s point of view, this is a really important aspect.”

Hart said he does not think KUT will have any trouble paying back the funds if the regents approve the purchase.

“KUT is an incredible operation,” Hart said. “I’m sure they will be able to pay this off very quickly. They are good at making the case to their supporters to help them.”

If KUT is not able to repay this sum, the College of Communication has agreed to step in and repay unpaid balances with its Gift Fund, according to the Board of Regents’ agenda. The acquisition of this station will allow KUT to differentiate its services between two stations, one focusing on news and the other on music. Hart said since Austin is known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” the acquisition of an all-music station will allow KUT to become closer to Austin’s music community.

Radio-television-film senior Ofer Shouval is a fan of KUT and said he is looking forward to the creation of a dedicated news station.

“KUT music is really eclectic, and I don’t want to listen to some of it, but I almost always want to listen to their news,” Shouval said. “I like having the option to choose between the two.”

Since the Board of Regents will not vote on this proposal until Wednesday, UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said he is not able to speak about the proposal at this time.

“I cannot speak about this, because it would be inappropriate for me, as the board spokesperson, to comment on the item before the board has an opportunity to discuss it,” de Bruyn said.

According to the Board of Regents’ agenda, UT-Austin is optimistic that revenue from the acquisition will help KUT maintain its new studios in the Belo Center for New Media and provide capital during difficult times.

News Briefly

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will receive the Inaugural Annette Strauss Texas Leadership Award on Feb. 22.

The Annette Strauss Texas Leadership Award reflects the standards of civil service established by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. The group chose to honor Hutchison for her civic contributions, according to the Institute.

“She was a person who knew Mayor Strauss and worked with her in Dallas. And when we started the institution 10 years ago, even though they were of opposite political affiliations, she was gracious enough to endorse us,” said College of Communications Dean Roderick Hart, who chairs the Annette Strauss Institute.

The award ceremony coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the nonpartisan organization.

“This an attempt to dramatize the importance of civic engagement,” Hart said.

The proceeds of the ceremony will go to the organization’s education fund, which promotes scholastic outreach to secondary and collegiate learning.

The selection process for the award is entirely nonpartisan, Hart said.

The fourth-term senator will receive the award upon the premise of her civic commitment to the public and her demonstration of leadership within her community. Hutchison announced in January that she will not seek another term in 2012.

Sports broadcasting giant ESPN may be taking over the entire second floor of the Jesse H. Jones Communications Center Building B to house studios for its $300 million Longhorn network, said College of Communications Dean Roderick Hart.

The plan might impact the Department of Radio-Television-Film, which uses space in the CMB, one of the buildings in the communications complex. RTF production faculty are meeting to discuss ESPN’s interest in the studio space today, according to an e-mail RTF production area head Andrew Shea sent to the faculty members.

“I believe this has potential to be seen as one of the best things to ever happen to the RTF department,” Hart said. “It’s a wonderful building. To build studios of this quality today would be extraordinarily expensive.”

The 20-year deal would also give ESPN rights to Studio 6B, currently home of KLRU broadcasts and performances.

The network, which UT and ESPN announced last month, does not yet have an official name. Programing will include Longhorn sports as well as studio shows, historical programming and other academic and cultural events when it launches this summer.

Three weeks ago, ESPN representatives identified the building as a strong candidate for the studio. Legendary news anchor and former UT student Walter Cronkite once said the building was better than the CBS studio in New York.

“It is probable [the facility] will be in the CMB, which will provide optimal opportunities for faculty and student participation and learning,” said UT vice president for legal affairs Patricia Ohlendorf. “I expect we will conclude the lease document very soon.”

With the potential arrival of ESPN in the building, the biggest challenge for the RTF department would be finding a space for the all the broadcasting equipment presently housed in rooms on the second floor.

Hart said RTF classes would be spread across the communications complex at Whitis Avenue and 25th Street for the short term. Once the $50.6 million Belo Center for New Media opens in June 2012, RTF faculty will move into vacant space in the CMA.

ESPN will have its own security on the second floor and will pay for all renovations, Hart said. He said the network will bring in 75 employees, including some new hires and employees transferred from other facilities. ESPN may also hire UT students as interns to help with programming and other aspects.

“We’d love to have our students be a part of this,” said Jennifer Hammat, interim director of Texas Student Media. “Twenty-four hours of programming is a lot of programming for a day.”

Location negotiations are ongoing, but Hart said he believes UT and ESPN must agree on a location for the network by the end of the month. When President William Powers Jr. announced the deal in January, he said the network would have its facilities at the Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director for communications, declined to comment on negotiations, as did an ESPN spokesman. Voinis said there will be an announcement soon.

Three deans of the college stood near a long table with red cups and ping pong balls in the lobby of the communication school on Wednesday.

Although it might have looked like an impromptu game of beer pong, the three deans were actually playing early-morning juice pong as part of Communication Council’s biannual “Donuts with the Deans” event.

The council members organized the breakfast to bridge the gap between students and faculty members, said council member Micaela Neumann, a communication studies sophomore.

“This is an opportunity for students to interact with deans about any concerns they have about their educations,” Neumann said.

She said the idea was to give students a chance to meet their deans in a casual environment. Several dozen students stopped by the table to chat and pick up free breakfast.

Dean Roderick Hart, who attended the event, said he wanted students to see that he and the college’s associate deans were approachable and available to talk.

“This gives me a sense of what excites [students] and what worries them,” Hart said.

Hart talked about the field of communication as it relates to economic and political trends.

“Communication students are liberal arts majors who are profoundly impatient,” Hart said. “Our students are broadly educated, but there’s an implication to apply the knowledge.”

Hart said an ideal communication student should be thoughtful, articulate and curious. He encouraged students not to get too discouraged by the current scarcity of jobs.

“These are hard times financially,” he said. “Keep in mind how quickly cycles change. That’s true in politics and in economics, as well. My advice would be to keep a historical view even though we live in the present.”

Hart said the landslide Republican victory in Tuesday’s midterm election is episodic, and, in its haste to cover the unusual, the media has overblown the influence of the Tea Party. He said he continues to encourage his students to vote in every election, even if for no other reason than pure self interest.

“If you don’t vote, I get two votes,” Hart said. “If I’m not there to make the case for aging white males, who else will be?”

Students in attendance expressed their gratitude both for the free food and for a chance to make contact with the leaders of their college.

Advertising graduate student Josh Glick said he would prefer a casual setting to a formal office visit when finding out more about the deans.