The blanket tax vote helped cause the sale?
After the Houston Press first reported the KTRU sale (via a leak from a KUHF staffer), President David Leebron offered a litany of arguments explaining why the sale was necessary. One of his arguments, in very diplomatic terms, was that the two votes rejecting an increase in the KTRU blanket tax demonstrated that students did not care about the station, and thus helping initiate the sale. As the President stated in his e-mail explanation to the Rice community:
“It is not irrelevant in this context that the students have voted down KTRU blanket tax increases. These votes have indeed indicated the need to expand our resources for student opportunities in other areas.“
One can offer the rebuttal that the blanket tax votes did not reflect an opinion that KTRU should be sold, but rather that it merely did not need any more money. This could even be interpreted as showing that students believed KTRU was already doing a magnificent job, and did not require a funding bump to be a an impressive station.
Furthermore, the second of the two votes garnered 55 percent of student vote, demonstrating a majority of student support. However, blanket tax increases require a supermajority.
But those arguments aside, Rice did state that the votes indicated a need to “expand resources,” meaning sell KTRU. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
But I use a logical fallacy for a reason. Did the votes actually cause the sale?
The blanket tax vote only encouraged an ongoing sale?
After he sent out that first KTRU sale e-mail, President Leebron changed his language. In a Thresher interview, he stated that the votes did not cause or influence the sale, but merely reaffirmed an already ongoing sale process:
“Leebron said that rather than informing the decision to sell the station, however, this merely confirmed the impressions of the individuals dealing with the sale.”
In an e-mail to the public, Rice blames the students’ votes as one of the originating causes of the sale. In an interview with the students, Rice states that the sale was already ongoing when the votes were happening.
So which is it? Did the votes confirm previous suspicions or did they inform new ones? Why the change in rhetoric?
With the release of the Open Records Requests by Texas Watchdog and KTRU, one would think that sale opponents (and other interested parties) would be able to pinpoint when Rice first contemplated selling KTRU. But it is more difficult than you would think.
Rice initiated the sale before both votes?
According to Texas Watchdog, Rice contemplated selling KTRU in 2008, before the first vote:
“E-mails show the purchase of KTRU and its transmitter had been considered at least since early 2009. Rice had wanted to put the radio station up for sale in 2008, but it was delayed, according to the missives.”
By Texas Watchdog’s reporting, Rice’s first attempts to sell the radio station came before the KTRU votes. This would mean that one of Rice’s first justifications for selling KTRU, in the form of President Leebron’s mass e-mail, was inherently misleading. The votes did not influence the sale. The sale was already happening and most likely would continue. Would Rice have changed course if the votes had passed?
One could argue that if Rice had been straightforward about its KTRU schemes, then students would have recognized the importance of the vote. With these hypothetical circumstances, Rice could point to the votes as a true referendum on KTRU. But, under this timeline, Rice kept the sale plans secret from students.
Rice initiated the sale after the first vote?
However, the earliest e-mail that I can find in either the KTRU or Texas Watchdog files only dates to May 29, 2009.
This date still places the sale between the 2009 KTRU vote and the 2010 KTRU vote. If this records the first serious attempt of Rice selling KTRU, then Rice’s first explanation is perhaps justifiable. The failed first vote encouraged the sale.
However, given the amount of time it takes to arrange the sale of a radio station, how university bureaucracy works, Texas Watchdog’s own conclusions, and President Leebron’s explanation in the Thresher interview, one can fairly assume that Rice began the sale process before both blanket tax votes.
Rice is not subject to Open Record Requests
Then why did Rice blame the votes in that first e-mail? Was it attempting to blame the students? Was Rice just throwing out every argument it could think of to justify the sale? Why the change in rhetoric?
Rice knows when it first contemplated selling KTRU, but you most likely will not. The open record requests from KTRU and Texas Watchdog can only reach records held by the University of Houston, because it is a public university. Rice is a private university, and its own records and communications can be kept private. Plans to sell KTRU may have been going on for years.
Throughout KTRU Outdoor Shows and Battles of the Bands, awards and celebrations and concerts, the offices of the Allen Center may have already been riddled with schemes to sell KTRU in complete secrecy.
And among those records and e-mails are probably the real reasons why Rice is selling KTRU. At least I hope so. It would be very sad if Rice were selling KTRU without a proper vetting and cost-benefit analysis. But so far, none has been made available to the public.
Rice should take the higher ground and release all of its information about the KTRU sale. If the sale is truly justified, then the facts should speak for themselves. Let Rice justify this sale, just as Rice students must justify their arguments in classes. If the university cannot do that, then this course of events will be tainted through Rice’s history as one of its lowest hours, unable to even meet the same standards it holds for its students.