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Frequency: After initial static, campus radio receives good reception

Published: Monday, March 17, 2008

Updated: Monday, September 8, 2008 02:09

The WLCV studio in the Student Activity Center has become a common fixture of campus life for most students. However, few may be aware of the station's humble beginnings in a Stevenson Hall dorm room in 1967.

When Richard Sweetland transferred to the University of Louisville from State University of New York in Morrisville, he said he was surprised to find that the school lacked a radio station.

Having worked as chief engineer at the State University of New York in Morrisville's radio station WCVM prior to coming to U of L, Sweetland said he found the lack of a radio station odd, given the school's size.

"It was inconsistent," said Sweetland, "that a school of 1000 students had a radio station, but not a school of 10,000."

For a time it seemed as though U of L would never have a radio station of its own, as, according to Sweetland, university administration refused to support him in his quest for funding. In a time when student outrage over the war in Vietnam was rampant, the administration was apprehensive about enabling a completely new program that could act as a medium for dissent.

Despite this lack of support from administration, Sweetland and his crew of about twelve other students began broadcasting to students from Stevenson Hall in November 1967, and regular broadcasts of WLCV began on Jan. 9, 1968.

With support from then Dean of Housing Harold Adams, the station was able to work around the lack of co-ed dorms at the time to allow female DJ's to join the station in their nightly broadcasts.

Three months after the station's first broadcast, the university finally decided to back WLCV. However, even then the administration worried about the future of their investment.

Sweetland said he and the other creators of WLCV wondered if the station would even exist the following year. It was the student enthusiasm towards the station, and its growing popularity that allowed it to continue after Sweetland was drafted to fight in Vietnam, forcing him to leave U of L and preventing him from graduating.

Sweetland said he feels WLCV, and college radio in general, are a good source of broadcast training many students could not get elsewhere, as well as a source of experiences that can influence them later in their lives.

This is especially true for Sweetland who spent the years following his time in the army founding and managing dozens of radio stations, in addition to owning an FM station in Mexico.

"College radio is a start," Sweetland said. "A lot of people got their first chance at, or exposure to, broadcasting with WLCV. I'm curious to know how many people began a career in broadcasting due to WLCV."

Today a new generation of DJ's carry on the WLCV legacy. Sophomore justice administration major Sarah Slone has been a DJ since her freshman year and said she joined the WLCV staff because of her interest in music and introducing others to lesser-known bands.

"It is the most relaxing part of my week. I really enjoy it," said Slone. "You get to sit in the room and play whatever you want, say what you want, and just enjoy the music."

Slone said she uses her airtime to play bands she has found around the Internet, those that are not likely to be heard otherwise. She feels college radio allows exposure to a much greater variety of music than most regular radio stations provide.

Slone said college radio is important to a campus because of connections, involvement and the change it can inspire.

Sweetland said he is glad to see WLCV has endured for so long, "there is a certain feeling of immortality to it. A lot of us didn't think it would last more than a year or two. It's something that will last longer than I will."

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