March 6, 2003
front page
more news
ad information
contact information


‘YSO board members quit

Concerns about the direction of WYSO public radio and the effectiveness of the WYSO Resource Board have been raised again as two members resigned from the board.

Char Miller and Fay Ellis Jones both submitted letters of resignation this past week to Antioch University Chancellor Jim Craiglow.

Miller resigned in protest over concerns she has with station’s management, including General Manager Steve Spencer, and both women cited concerns about a lack of oversight by the Resource Board.

Several board members disagreed with their former colleagues’ assertions, while saying that the Resource Board is trying to work better together.

“My decision to resign is motivated by a systemic pattern of behavior on the part of the WYSO general manager, the vice chancellor and the Resource Board executive committee,” Miller wrote. Those behaviors range “from incompetent management and administrative oversight of the station” to a “misuse of public funds” by Glenn Watts, the Antioch University vice chancellor, and Spencer, Miller said in her letter.

Miller recommended the disbanding of the Resource Board due to ineffectiveness.

“The board does not represent the WYSO listening community and is populated by underwriters and friends of the WYSO general manager,” she stated.

Miller said that the board, while given oversight responsibility for the station’s budget in its bylaws, has not seen a budget for WYSO in over a year.

“No board can function effectively without a review of the budget and monthly financial position of the endeavor to which it provides advice and resources,” said Miller, who first raised concerns over the board’s effectiveness and the station’s fiscal health last July. The station later reported a $100,000 deficit for last fiscal year.

Watts said that he sent a station budget to the board’s finance committee for review six weeks ago, and that anyone may see the budget in the Antioch College library. “It’s not a secret document,” he said.

Ellis Jones said that while the board’s bylaws give it oversight authority, “in reality the vice chancellor is running the station and ignoring recommendations of the board.”

At issue is which body, the university or the board, has the authority to oversee station activities, both Watts and Resource Board members said. While the board’s bylaws give it oversight responsibility for the station’s finances and management, that oversight responsibility is only advisory, Watts said.

“Under the current structure, the board is not a governance board but an advisory board,” he said.

The lack of clarity does contribute to the board’s difficulties, said Chuck Vella, vice president of the Resource Board.

“From our perspective, it’s an issue,” he said. “The bylaws are ambiguous.”

Currently, he said, the board is working with the university trustees and administrator to clarify its role and responsibilities.

Watts also said he believes that WYSO is healthier than ever, with lively and popular programming and the “largest audience we’ve ever had.”

While Miller said that she believes Watts and Spencer “want an ineffective board,” Watts said, “I think the role of the board is important. I believe most of the board feels paid attention to.”

In an interview this week, the Resource Board president, Randy Daniel, said, “We appreciate the contributions that both Fay and Char have made and are disappointed to hear” that they’re leaving the board.

Daniel said that he disagrees with Miller’s assertion that the board is ineffective. “I think we are broad-based and trying to be more so,” he said. “We are working hard to do the best we can.”

Watts, who oversees WYSO, said in an interview that the resignations and former board members’ criticism took him by surprise. The board recently held a retreat, he said, and “we thought it was highly successful and we made progress closing the gaps between members.”

Spencer was out of the office for several days this week and was not available for comment. Craiglow could not be reached.

The resignations reduce to 11 the number of remaining Resource Board members, who include Daniel, Chuck Vella, Joe Colvin, Nancy Nash, Bonnie Parrish, Neil Meermans, Ed Humphrys, Dione Kennedy, Alex Williams and Jeffrey Dundon.

In her letter, Ellis Jones, an Antioch University faculty member, cited as her main concern that “the station, under its current leadership, is divorced from any educational mission.”

The board has had no representative from Antioch College for more than two years, she said, adding that she has repeatedly requested that the college’s seat on the board be filled, but “I don’t get an answer.”

Ellis Jones said that the lack of a college voice has contributed to the station’s moving away from its original educational mission.

The college has not had a representative on the board because it hasn’t found someone willing to assume the responsibility, Watts said.

However, when told that Antioch professor Ann Bohlen volunteered for the position many months ago, Watts acknowledged her offer but said that “her vision of the station may have been different” from that of other board members and that “being supportive of the station is a requisite.” When told that retired professor Al Denman has also offered to fill the college seat, Watts said that according to the bylaws, the college representative must currently be employed by the institution.

Watts said that he hopes to fill both the college seat and the Antioch University McGregor seat, which Ellis Jones held, in the near future.

“We’re working on ways to create a closer educational relationship with the college,” he said, including continuing a class in broadcasting that was revived last fall after a hiatus of several years.

Regarding her accusation of “misuse of public funds,” Miller said that the board communicated to Watts its concern that Spencer allegedly had excessive absences from work.

“I believe when the manager doesn’t come to work and still collects paychecks, that’s a misuse of funds,” she said.

Watts would not comment on the question of Spencer’s alleged absenteeism. “That’s a personnel matter, and I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” he said.

The board also had developed a performance plan for Spencer that, she said, Watts did not communicate to the station manager.

It was not clear whether Watts did share the plan with Spencer. “If I say ‘yes’ it sounds like I’m endorsing the plan, and if I say ‘no,’ it sounds like nothing has been done,” he said. “Neither is true.”

Antioch University’s handling of the performance plan reflects its dismissal of the board, said Ellis Jones.

“In defense of the board, they have tried to do their job. They have made recommendations to the university for certain actions, but those recommendations have been ignored,” she said.

—Diane Chiddister