WQHS Radio, Penn’s 24/7 student-run radio station, will lose access to its recording space for one year without an immediate relocation option.
The radio station will lose access to the Seltzer Family Studio in the Hollenback Center — the station's home for about 40 years — from April 2023 to April 2024 as Hollenback undergoes renovations. The studio has been a space for musicians, bands, and DJs to record as well as a storage space for all of the technical equipment that WQHS owns and thousands of valuable CDs and vinyls.
Rodney Robinson, the associate director of activities in Penn's Office of Student Affairs, notified WQHS members earlier this week that they would temporarily lose their space. Since then, over 400 people have signed a petition created by the station asking for support.
“As the Hollenback facility undergoes renovations, the building must be completely vacant," Robinson wrote in a comment to The Daily Pennsylvanian. "University Life is in the process of assisting the radio station leadership with the transition and working to mitigate the impacts on the student organization during the construction process. As an internet-based radio station, WQHS has the unique ability to continue broadcasting during the renovation of the building and their studio space.”
Despite the notice from Robinson, student leaders affiliated with the center said that there was an initial shock and a lack of prior notice from University administrators. Station librarian Lex Giglio, a College sophomore, told the DP that the news was "very sudden."
"A lot of the initial reaction was surprise, mainly because of how little notice and information there was," Giglio said. "Personally, I was just shocked and immediately confused as to what we were going to do.”
Giglio said that, after WQHS asked about relocation, Penn administration told WQHS that doing so was "not feasible, since there is no comparable space, and it is cost prohibitive." Members of the station claimed that they have not yet been offered assistance.
“We were very disappointed in how the Office of Student Affairs hadn't given us accommodation," College junior Giselle Wagner, the radio's station manager, said.
The petition created by WQHS is intended to garner support for station’s cause. It states that since the WQHS is primarily funded by alumni and partially by Penn, it should not be up to the station's members to organize relocation. The petition also expressed disappointment in Penn’s apparent lack of value for public broadcasting.
“Since our radio tower fell down in the early 2000s, we have been an internet radio station. Even then, Penn never offered to help fund a new tower," Giglio said. "I think that's detrimental because you’d expect such a highly esteemed institution to value public broadcasting."
WQHS outreach director Evie Klein, a junior in the College, echoed Giglio, adding that Penn does not view radio "with the same importance" as pre-professional clubs and organizations on campus. She and other WQHS members said that the station is "not just a broadcast," and plays an important role in the Penn community.
"We have been able to plan events and expose musicians to the Greater Philadelphia community and the Penn campus," Klein said. "We enable students to have a space where they can community build through a love of music.”
Klein added that, although the station is internet-based, it requires a physical space to broadcast.
"Simply put, the mechanics of our station are at Hollenback. Whether that be the computer we play music from or the technology that we have that streams it out to our listeners, it’s all there," Klein told the DP. "We simply just need a space to broadcast. We can't operate in a storage area.”
Apart from the operational value of the Hollenback space, many members of WQHS said they consider it a place with sentimental value that allows them to disconnect from the stress of Penn.
"It’s an escape, quite literally. It is a little bit of a hike off campus, but I think that adds to its charm," College junior Sam Pasco, WQHS' program director, said. “It’s a place where you have the chance to build a community and be creative."
WQHS members added that their plans for the future of the station depends on the level of assistance they receive from the University. Pasco said the station is in contact with WXPN and is aware of a "fully working radio studio" in Huntsman Hall. They expressed disappointment that the station has not been offered the Hunstman space as another location.
"We're frantically trying to figure out what to do if we’re not supported," Pasco said, adding that the station has considered selling parts of the studio, CDs, and vinyls to address funding concerns.
Still, Giglio said that the station is confident it would continue operating despite the yearlong relocation.
"There's no way that WQHS will choose to cease operating," Giglio said. "As a community, I think we are strong and supportive enough to find some sort of way to get through it. We've had a lot of hardships already and I feel like we can persevere in some way.”