LEWISBURG — A Bucknell University student disc jockey and his two student guests have been temporarily suspended and face possible expulsion after making racial slurs and promoting racial violence in a live student-radio broadcast March 20.
The students, whose identities Bucknell would not release, were talking on “Happy Times,” a WVBU-FM show that airs on Friday nights. They could be expelled following the results of an internal investigation, according to an email sent to faculty, staff and students from college President John Bravman.
University spokesman Andy Hirsch on Friday said the comments made by all three students lasted about 10 to 15 seconds.
“(The comments were made) toward the end of the 8 o’clock hour,” Hirsch said. “The language involved a racial slur, racially motivated violence.”
He refused to specifically state the content of the comments, which he heard on a tape.
“It was reprehensible,” he said. “It is likely every bit as bad as what you might think it is.”
The show “Happy Times” features a wide variety of topics, Hirsch said, adding that he cannot imagine the show would continue.
“Independent of this happening, (the students) were going to end this show,” he said.
He also said he did not know how many listeners the show attracts.
“Not many,” he said. “I’m not sure.”
Hirsch said the suspensions are in place pending conduct proceedings as outlined in the student handbook.
The Student Code of Conduct section states that “Bucknell University has certain expectations of the student members of its community, including that students will act in a manner that reflects maturity, social responsibility and respect toward the person and property of others.”
It goes on to say that prohibited conduct includes “engaging in conduct that threatens the health or well-being of another.”
Of interim suspensions, it reads: “The dean of students may impose an interim suspension ... pending the resolution, including appeal, of an alleged community conduct violation when determined, in the dean’s sole discretion, that it is necessary in order to protect the safety and well-being of members of the Bucknell community, to protect the respondent’s own physical or emotional safety and well-being, to preserve university property, or if the respondent poses an ongoing threat of disruption of or interference with the normal operation of the university.”
Neither “Happy Time” nor its disc jockeys’ names were listed among the 25 shows and hosts offered by WVBU on Friday afternoon.
Seventy-nine percent of Bucknell students are white, according to Hirsch. Hispanics comprise 5.2 percent of the student body, Asians 3.6 percent, African-Americans 3.2 percent and those of multiple races, 3.4 percent.
Calls to Bucknell University’s Multicultural Student Services and the radio station on Friday went unreturned.
“I think (Bravman’s) note that he sent out (Thursday) night was probably the first (students) heard about it,” Hirsch said. “I would say it’s a pretty fair guess that the majority of the students don’t know the exact language (from the show). I’m sure they are upset.
“I also think they recognize these are only a few voices in our community and not representative of what we stand for in our values.”
There are no transcripts of the show, Hirsch said.
Not all radio shows are taped, said Mark Lawrence, program director at Newsradio 1070 WKOK.
“The device is expensive,” he said.
Lawrence said he did not believe a tape of the broadcast, if it exists, would be subject to public record.
“I wouldn’t think so,” he said. “It’s a private university. It’s their private device.”
Radio stations are not required to record all broadcasts, Lawrence said.
Bucknell also is investigating whether the comments violated FCC regulations.
“We think that is a possibility,” Hirsch said.
Among the higher-profile disc jockeys to be punished for racial slurs was Don Imus, who was fired from his radio station by CBS in April 2007 following Imus’ derogatory comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.
Bravman, in an email to faculty Thursday night, wrote that “Such behavior is unacceptable and inexcusable,” that an investigation was under way and “It may be that other participants are identified throughout the course of the investigation.”
All will be held fully accountable for their actions, with possible sanctions up to and including expulsion, he wrote.
“This is not who we are,” Bravman wrote. “In fact, it is the antithesis of what so many of our students, faculty and staff are working hard to attain — a more diverse and inclusive environment. I urge you to defy this detestable conduct by not letting it thwart our progress toward a greater Bucknell.
“I am deeply saddened for the pain this will cause in our community. We are better than this.”
According to the school’s website, WVBU, at 90.5 FM, is “The Voice of Bucknell University, Bucknell’s one and only student-run radio station.
“WVBU plays a music format of modern and alternative rock, with a number of specialty shows of such genres as classical, jazz and classic rock. The station fills a niche in the airwaves that has been left open by local radio stations, and provides public service announcements and news to the campus and surrounding area. WVBU also operates a remote services division, providing music for on-campus entertainment. WVBU-FM is open to membership, after a mandatory training period, to all members of the Bucknell community, students and faculty alike.”