Tag Archives: 91.7 FM

Rice University sells KTRU, claims to promote public arts

The other day, I received a Rice University news release in my inbox with the title: “Rice University launches public art initiative […]”

Really? Launches public art initiative? Whatever could it be? Maybe Rice was launching a 50,000 watt transmission of musical genres and styles that cannot be heard anywhere else on the local spectrum? Wait, Rice already does that. It is called KTRU. And what could be more artsy than the eclectic and unique songs that would fill the KTRU repertoire?

But apparently, Rice thinks that three random works around campus is public art. The works aren’t bad, but I question how public they are. Parking at Rice is difficult enough, even for those of us who know the campus. And thanks to the changes in parking policy, there is not even free parking on campus.  On the other hand, KTRU is available to anyone with an FM radio.

Indeed, while these installations may be nice, they are quite limited.

This one is called paraMuseum: Environmental Exigencies by Charles Mary Kubricht. It is four leaves.

Charles Mary Kubricht thinks of the Rice campus as some sort of “tree museum.” These four panels, according to the Rice press release, “reflect her interest in how humans actively create and measure experience, perception, meaning and the fate of the natural environment.”

At the rate things are going, Rice will be a museum for student expression, and unqiue and local art. Perhaps in 50 years, someone will have an installation of photographs documenting the glory of local programming and the grand history of KTRU.

But at least that one is in the Brochstein Pavilion, which is reasonably easy to find and access. Not so much can be said for the second work:

Aurora Robson's "Lift" is a huge spherical sculpture, made of more than 9,000 discarded plastic bottles.

This looks kinda cool, is apparently supposed to create “a sense of the ‘cosmic and astronomical’ among the daily regimen of bench presses and treadmills,” in the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center.  That is nice, but it is even less accessible to the public than the previous work. This ball hangs from the ceiling of the new Rec Center, which is limited to members of the Rice community.  So while “faculty, staff and retirees, and graduate students of Rice University as well […] their spouse/domestic partner[s]” may enjoy this dangling décollage, the rest of the public will have to catch glimpses through the window as they run the outer loop.

And speaking of glimpsing through the window, the final work:


Leo Villareal's "Radiant Pathway" contains 92 LED light tubes, each of which have 20 pixels capable of displaying 16 million different colors. The changing light sequences are never repeated.

The non-repetition inherent in this work [edit: which resides in the BioScience Research Collaborative] certainly is an artistic marvel. However, Rice claims that it is a public work because people can see it through a window. University Art Director Molly Hubbard calls it a new era of public art “outside the hedges.”Apparently a work inside a building that you can see through the window is “outside the hedges.” But you know what else at Rice provided art for the Houston community outside the hedges? KTRU. And while Radiant Pathway is only on from 7 a.m. until midnight, KTRU transmits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While Rice claims to launch a public art initiative, it does so while eliminating one of the best sources of free, easy to access, public art in the city of Houston: KTRU Rice radio.

I do not like it when people accuse various politicians or institutions as being Orwellian. It is usually used in the sense of someone saying something that means the exact other. For example, the Healthy Forests Initiative allowed for private logging companies to cut down trees. It is probably more accurate to claim such actions are Doublespeak, or merely simple politicking. If you are doing one thing that people don’t like, claim you are doing the exact opposite.

Or course, jokes about the Orwellian nature of the Rice administration are no new thing (pdf: Rice Thresher Orwellian Cartoon):

Rice University in 1984. Another classic Dan Derozier cartoon

So if 91.7 FM turns to classical music, which you can already get on 88.7 FM, and that source of unique, eclectic musical art from Houston and around the world goes silent, don’t worry: Rice is launching a public art initiative by placing three works of art on its campus.

And that totally balances out.

Rice and UH were using Facebook to research KTRU’s station manager

“Who is Nick Schlossman?”

This one question is a nice little microcosm of the problems surrounding the KTRU sale. Schlossman filed the KTRU Open Record Request (disclosure: which I first drafted) with the University of Houston. UH forwarded this info to Rice University VP of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, to let her know that soon the UH-Rice communications concerning the KTRU sale would be opened to the public.

Her response: Who is Nicholas Schlossman?

UH Director of Media Relations provided what little info he could garnish from an unfriended Facebook page.

Perhaps if the Rice administrators had any connections with their students and campus, they would know who Schlossman was. They would know that he was a student at Jones College. They would know that he was a Rice Thresher copy editor. And most importantly, they would know that he was the KTRU Station Manager for two consecutive years. From Spring 2007 until Spring 2009, Schlossman was THE station manager for 91.7 FM KTRU Rice Radio.

Judging by Texas Watchdog and my own work, Rice initiated selling KTRU before Spring 2009. It is a testament to Rice’s failure of due diligence that it contemplated selling the station without even knowing who the station manager was. (pdf: Rice didnt know ktru station manager)

Rice VP of Public Relations did not know who the KTRU station manager was.

Certainly if Rice had spent some serious amount of time studying KTRU, they would have known who the station manager was. If Rice had actually determined whether the sale of the station would result in the positive outweighing the negative, then it would have at some point learned who Schlossman was.

After all, the station manager dictated how the station operated, what the station played, and overall station policy. If Rice thought that KTRU could be better used, then certainly it should have considered meeting with the station manager, if not talk to him directly. But instead, in the wake of the public outrage surrounding the KTRU sale, the man actually in control of the station was a complete mystery to Rice’s Vice President of Public Relations.

Maybe Rice simply didn’t care about station manger because it is a student position. Maybe Rice thought the station manager was irrelevant because the administrators honestly didn’t care about KTRU’s content. But in the end, Rice should have at least known the station manager as part of due diligence.

Until now, I assumed that Rice had files and communications explaining its justification of and rationality behind the KTRU sale. Unfortunately, I thought, these files would be hidden to records requests because Rice is a private university. However, this little revelation, this ignorance, this “Who is Nick Schlossman,” makes one doubt whether Rice properly researched and justified the KTRU sale.

If Rice is going to sell one of its most public and most well-known assets, it should know every little thing about it. But instead, Rice seems like one of those poor schmucks who sells an autographed baseball, thinking that Babe Ruth is a girl.

I assumed that Rice had some sort of plan that it didn’t want to release because it would reveal financial information, or demonstrate that Rice wanted to sell KTRU long before the public date, or show utter disregard for students. But in the end, maybe Rice just never did its research.

Rice University should hold itself to the same strict academic standards required of its students. If it cannot justify this sale, then the sale should not go through. And right now, Rice does not even know the base KTRU facts, so it resorts to the University of Houston doing Facebook research.

Rice didn't know its basic facts in the KTRU sale