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Well, this sucks.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this might be my last post as General Manager of this incredible radio station.

As the university closes down its buildings until the spread of the virus is over, students will no longer have access to the station’s offices or studio space. Starting today the station is closed until further notice. While my time as General Manager continues until May 1st, it remains uncertain what the future will hold from now until then.

As this crisis continues, many students including some of our staff members have returned home to their families, but we want you to know WIDR and the Student Media Group are still here. We will still be attempting to create content for the blog and our other online outlets in support of the Western Herald’s efforts to provide information to the Kalamazoo community. Deep down we know we are essential to our community in a time of crisis more than ever, but we must also do all that's possible to stop this virus from reaching the folks we hold the closest.

I also just really wanted to say thank you to our DJ’s, street team, music reviewers, volunteers, listeners, community members, and everyone who has been a part of the WIDR family. I’ve been involved since my arrival to WMU three years ago and it’s been a second home to me ever since. I hope you'll join me in keeping up with the WIDR long after I'm gone. Let the radio evolution continue!

Professionally, my thoughts are with my co-workers and other student media staff who’ve been put out of work, or continue to work without knowing whether or not they'll get paid for it. We’ll be handed our final checks on March 31st, when some of us will begin to work unpaid until further notice. We understand not much can be done to accommodate the physical operations of our services as the university closes access to its buildings, but we also believe our presence on campus is one that qualifies the continuation of our paychecks.

That’s why over the weekend, we joined media organizations across the world in our declaration as an “essential service". In a petition to the university, our board asked President Montgomery and WMU’s Board of Trustees to consider WMU’s Student Media Group an “essential service” to WMU’s campus in the event of any future movement restrictions.

Read the petition here.

Note: As of Sunday, Western Michigan University has not responded to the WMU Student Media Group petition to be formally recognized as an "essential service".

Our necessity to campus and the greater WMU community has never been more clear than during the public health crisis we are currently facing. Our operation is crucial not only for this campus’ historical archive but for the health and safety of the students, who already paid for our service through the Student Assessment Fee (SAF). The WMU SAF is an annual fee charged to students taking classes on the main campus at the beginning of each semester to fund student groups like Campus Activities Board, WSA and the Student Media Group. Because our compensation comes directly from the university’s SAF funding, our pay is completely dependent on the university and its different departments.

WMU’s Office of Student Engagement — the department responsible for the SAF’s allocation and its distribution into student employee payroll — not reporting to work means there’s no one to submit our timesheets.

As accommodations have been made to continue paying for other “essential services,” not making accommodations for our pay would set a dangerous precedent. WMU’s student body has paid for our service through the end of the semester. If our already allocated payment is not distributed, students must be reimbursed.

To me, what we’re asking for isn't all that radical. We hope the university, and you will continue to support student media at WMU as long as we are still here.

We’re also hoping you’ll be following CDC recommendations like practicing social distancing, staying inside, and washing your hands, in an effort to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

With gratitude and hope,

Zack Zagula

General Manager, WIDR FM

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