An old college associate of mine, Pete Wilson, writes in The Nashville Scene about the June 7 demise of WRVU (91.1 FM), Vanderbilt's student radio, as a broadcast station. "What's lost?" he asks. "The real-world immediacy that made broadcast radio a better learning experience than online simulation. The respect of students, alumni and Nashvillians who were patronized, told half-truths and kept in the dark until June 7. And one of the best ways of sharing culture that Vanderbilt ever had.
"WRVU gave people all over Middle Tennessee music of all kinds to enjoy for free. It was a site of cultural production at an exceedingly democratic level. Not only could it be received by anyone with a few dollars for a radio, but that same person could find him or herself on the transmitting end as well. In addition to dedicated students, WRVU drew smart, imaginative outsiders into its arms and gave them an opportunity to entertain, educate and inspire as part of a Vanderbilt enterprise."
Once upon a time, I listened fairly often to the WRVU "terrestrial" signal (the only kind of signal at the time), both in my student years and in fact more when I lived in Nashville after finishing school. I knew a number of people who did shifts there, and now and then would visit the broadcast booth. Two other students and I mixed the sound for a movie we made in film class at WRVU, using some of the sound effects records the station had in its vast collection. WRVU in the early '80s was refreshingly informal.
Sure, the station will survive in some form online. Maybe in 30 years few will remember that it was ever on the air -- and they might be increasingly vague on the whole concept of terrestrial radio anyway, considering it something that their grandparents listened to. But I'm with Pete. It's a distinct loss, and the "Vanderbilt enterprise" and Middle Tennessee are poorer for it.