Thursday, May 24, 2007

WMUB is an essential element

Over nearly four decades in Oxford at Miami, I have witnessed a number of remarkable changes in both communities. On the one hand, Oxford's fabric has deteriorated considerably because of the effect of purely market-driven forces on the housing stock. The problem with depending on the market solely is that it will respond inevitably to the short-run profit motive, with little if any regard for the longer-term well-being of the community as a whole. As  a result, High Street has been described as one long undergraduate food court. Oxford lacks many of the amenities that make regional university communities such as Bloomington, Madison, and Ann Arbor so engaging since  our collective life is shaped by the desires and tastes of the affluent but not very cosmopolitan undergraduates who drive the market.

Miami, for whatever reasons,  has not responded in a very vigorous fashion to the negative forces which have detracted from Oxford's attractiveness as a potential counterpoint to suburban sprawl and mall culture. One of the positive ways in which Miami has responded, however, has been in the decision made several years ago to upgrade WMUB from a very provincial endeavor catering to a diminishing taste-culture to a serious Public Radio station with professional leadership attuned both to the university community and a broader regional audience that hungers for something better than commercial radio as well as an alternative to the (much appreciated) musical offerings of other public radio stations. The revitalized MUB has been able to combine local talent and interests with national and international programming to provide a finely-tuned selection of offerings that appeal to this influential audience. The result has been a considerable amount of favorable publicity and good will for the university as well as the station. MUB, in short, is an essential element in Oxford's and Miami's cultural capital, a commodity harder to define -- and perhaps appreciate -- than the questions of financial capital that all too readily dominate much collective decision-making and priority-setting.

To kill or weaken WMUB would, in short, sadly diminish Miami's effectiveness in portraying itself as a place of learning and culture rather than simply a convenient vehicle for socializing the young into roles as unreflective producers and consumers. A university should be, to be sure, a regional economic asset, but it should also be a cultural asset. MUB is one of Oxford's and Miami's most visible and significant cultural assets. Let's keep it that way.

--Peter W. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and American Studies, Miami
[Prof. Williams is a frequent commentator on WMUB]


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