Student Choice Initiative prompts Windsor's CJAM to cut music director position
Station voted not to replace Lauren Hedges after her one-year contract expires
The University of Windsor's campus radio station is eliminating its only part-time staff position, ahead of expected funding cuts from the province's Student Choice Initiative.
In 2018, Lauren Hedges signed a one-year contract to work as CJAM's music director. On Apr. 4, the station's board of directors voted not to renew her position. However, the board also voted not to hire someone to replace her.
"The Student Choice Initiative has really jeopardized the funding for campus community radio stations," said Hedges. "In anticipation of those cuts, our board of directors had to make decisions to help ensure the longevity of the station."
In January, the provincial government announced its intent to allow students to opt out of most ancillary fees, with the exception of walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics, recreation, academic support and transit passes.
Between 60 and 70 per cent of CJAM's annual budget comes directly from student funding — a five-dollar fee included in the tuition costs of all full-time undergraduate students each semester.
Most of CJAM's funding is used to pay staff — one part-timer, two full-timers and two technicians who maintain the station's equipment as needed. Everyone else who is involved with CJAM — between 120 and 130 people — are volunteers.
Hedges said she did not push back when she was informed of the board's decision to eliminate her job altogether, adding it's ultimately worth it "to save CJAM as a whole."
"If we have the choice to keep running at lower staff or shut down sooner, obviously running with lower staff is preferable," she said.
What does a music director do?
Hedges has been part of the CJAM family since 2010, serving as a host for some of the station's most prominent shows. As the station's music director, Hedges works to make sure that CJAM has "the best, new music available."
"Whenever an artist releases a new album, whether they're independent or signed to a label, they send their music to us and I listen to it to decide what works for the station and what fits our sound," she said.
But that's not all her role entails. Hedges also tabulates the station's top-30 charts, lines up interviews with artists, snaps photographs at local shows, reviews live performances and organizes special events for the station.
"There's a lot that goes into it," she said.
Though University of Windsor students have not yet had the opportunity to decide which ancillary fees they want to opt out of paying, CJAM station manager Brady Holek believes significant funding cuts are a "foregone conclusion."
"What we're looking at doing right now is to save as much as we can in order to prepare and put in new initiatives that will generate more income in the future so that we can continue to operate," said Holek.
He adds cutting the position of music director should save CJAM about $16,000. But that would only put a dent in covering the station's annual budget. If 75 per cent of students elect to opt-out, Holek said that could result in a $70,000 loss for the station.
"If that means we have to take a hit for a couple years and then lose a position or two and then hopefully be able to build back up from there, that's what we're looking at right now."
Holek said the station will need to "adapt" by learning from other campus radio stations which currently operate without a music director, adding CJAM may run into challenges with maintaining its connections with record labels and music producers.
"We don't want to see a loss in our charting ability or the ability to get that new music on the air."
with files from Jonathan Pinto