What’s At Stake

KDVS’ Future as a Viable Business is at Stake

KDVS 90.3FM is the freeform radio institution established in 1968 at the University of California at Davis. The station serves the greater Sacramento vicinity on 90.3 FM, with broadcast heard to an area of two million people, from the Bay Area suburb of Fairfield to the Sierra Foothills (and on a good day, as far away as Incline Village, Nevada).  Late 2013 the UC Davis indicated that it was reviewing options for 1960’s-era modernist building that houses KDVS — Freeborn Hall — which sits adjacent to the campus Memorial Union building, the heart of the UC Davis campus.  Like many other buildings of its age, the structure required seismic retrofit and rehabilitation.  A replacement building was first entertained as an addition to the Memorial Union complex, which would have consumed the footprint of Freeborn Hall.  This plan was abandoned upon reassessment within a couple years of being proposed.  In 2018 a comprehensive architectural plan was drafted outlining the refurbishment of Freeborn: a complete seismic retrofit, ADA accessibility upgrade, and facade restoration (view plan here.)  After a year passed, the plan was reassessed, and the campus opted to mark the building for demolition, with no replacement building to take its place.  This would essentially render a “hole in the ground” at the center of UC Davis campus.  Upon this decision, KDVS was left pondering what its future might be. Since the announcement, UC Davis, unwilling to devote any new building space to KDVS, has looked for open spots around campus to relocate to. Will no space found, it decided to move KDVS into a computer room at the Memorial Union building. The following encapsulates the situation:

  • There is no space on campus for student activities, and the University has no plan for student activities in their UC Davis’ Long-Range Development Plan.  Recently the campus newspaper, The California Aggie, had to move off campus because there was no relocation space on-campus. 
  • In 2020 the university formed a relocation committee with UC Davis/KDVS alumni privy to KDVS operations, broadcast business, and civil engineering expertise.  Late 2020, the university discarded this committee without notice and the discussion was taken private.  A Public Records Act request was met with obfuscation concerning these details.
  • On April 2, 2021 the University made the decision to relocate KDVS from the 11-room 3100 sq ft KDVS premises into a 1-room ~1000 sq ft location currently known as the “Gunrock Gaming Room.”
  • The decision was made without input from the student body, KDVS general staff, alumni, listeners, faculty, Davis community, campus groups, etc.  No survey, research, or formal systematic data collection was undertaken. This is highly unprecedented for any campus planning procedure.
  • The university did not include the Campus Media Board in the relocation decision, which is mandated by the UC Regents to oversee KDVS.  The KDVS Program Advisory Board, as mandated by the CMB via the KDVS By-Laws, was not formed or privy to the process. To our knowledge, no media-related professors, broadcast consultants, nonprofit business, physical library or digital library experts, or myriad UCD/KDVS alumni within broadcasting, engineering, recording industry, media, and technology fields were consulted.
  • Although the Freeborn (MU complex) was constructed via bonds paid by student registration fees and student bookstore sales — and operated by Student Affairs — the student body was allotted no input.
  • The Freeborn Fact Sheet notes the building does not meet any criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.  The campus fails to mention that this a campus-assessed view via their paid contractor.  A quintessential space-age modern-architecture building, eponymous to UC Davis’ first Chancellor, where myriad historical cultural events occurred, not even claiming one historical qualification on form DPR 523 is premeditated misrepresentation.  The Fact Sheet also states Freeborn does not meet the CEQA threshold for historic preservation when that has not been assessed yet.
  • The space reduction implies up to an 80% reduction of KDVS’ historic library moved outside of the station into inaccessible storage. KDVS’ second studio (production room), the live performance room, the newsroom, listening rooms, and the staff office would all be cut.  This is despite promises made several times over the last two years for a proper relocation by the campus.
  • Lower Freeborn is deemed seismically safe to occupy, with a campus deadline of 2030, yet moving KDVS and reducing operations is being expedited for 2021-2022 without a plan simply to rush the Freeborn demolition. The rushed relocation deadline for 2021-2022 is perceived to facilitate undisclosed objectives at the sake of safe and sound planning in the middle of a pandemic.  
  • The Campus has planned billions in funding for such plans as Briggs Hall, Chemistry Addition, Chemistry Seismic Corrections, Chemistry Annex Seismic Work, C.N. Gorman Museum, CNPRC Lifespan Health Center, Cruess Hall, Diane Bryant Engineering Student Design Center, Edwards Family Athletics Center, Elizabeth Mary Wolf Environmental Learning Center, The Green at West Village, Hutchison Drive & Highway 113 Interchange Improvements, Orchard Park Redevelopment Project, Shasta Hall, Teaching and Learning Complex, UC Center Sacramento, UC Davis Health Davis Campus Clinic, and Walker Hall South Plaza Improvements.  The funds for Freeborn improvement are already earmarked.  The campus does not explain why it is “not… able to spend the money” on Freeborn.
  • Student Affairs has pursued the ARC Expansion ($15 m), MU Courtyard ($2.3 m), Recreation Pool ($10 m), Tercero Dining Commons 2 ($32 m), Webster Hall Redevelopment ($32 m), Silo South Renovation ($7.9 m), Tercero Student Housing Phase 4 ($59.1 m), and Memorial Union Renewal ($23.4 m).  Student Affairs has allotted funds for all these large projects, including finding room for a new Beach Volleyball Complex, while the campus states “not willing” to spend money on Freeborn and cannot find room for KDVS.  Freeborn seismic renovation is $4 m above the $5 m demolition cost — this is on the average less than most other Student Affairs construction projects.  There is unexplained bias and/or inconsistency here.

UC Davis has not been transparent.  They have been attempting to force a private agenda concerning student assets without due diligence, assessment, and planning, asserting austerity to student services when UC Davis is well endowed with billions in proposed projects.  UC Davis needs to do the right thing and open an inclusive stakeholder dialogue.

SAVE KDVS stands for the following:

  •  Advocating a 1:1 floor space move — the new KDVS location should preserve the physical music library, retain the live studio, and the rest of the space essential for KDVS operation.  
  • Moving the station to one contiguous location, retaining access to the full recording collection to students and community volunteers as it has been for the last 54 years.
  • Opening a dialog with UC Davis to search for novel solutions for KDVS, an asset to the entire Davis-Sacramento community.
  • Following the 2030 deadline for Freeborn demotion, and delaying the move of KDVS until adequate and researched planning can occur.

What is at stake is considerable.  Today, local radio and television are all owned by conglomerates in far-off places.  Newspapers have fared a worse plight:  The Sacramento Bee barely escaped bankruptcy, sold to a hedge fund, while the Sacramento News and Review is attempting to keep its head above water due to the impact of lost advertising from coronavirus. Locally-controlled media is at risk of not existing.  As for online content, social media is a closed corporate space infected by acrimonious disinformation, and apps like Spotify do not capture the “live and local” essence.  Outlets like KDVS are the last beacons of localism in an era of uncertainty and consolidated media.  The demand for local culture today is heightened by the dearth of local music scene and clubs eradicated by coronavirus precautions.  The escalation of regional emergencies like fires, power outages, flooding, and other acts of god that eliminate or reduce internet and cell service also leave KDVS as a live grassroots source of information independent of the internet and digital devices to work.  KDVS and its volunteers have played an integral part in sustaining local music, including the founding of local performance spots and record stores.  KDVS has also acted as guardian of cultural diversity, affording viewpoint and discussion to voices underrepresented in media.  KDVS is not just a “public” or “college” station — it is a product of the community, successfully run by students and the community.  It is a tremendous value in the community service it produces and people it reaches given its low operating budget funded by listener donations, business underwriting, and UC Davis students.

There is reason for concern.  In the last couple of decades public universities like UC Davis have focused more on straightforward academics, with less investment in well-rounded experiences, culture, and student-derived activities.  Universities are not just for classroom instruction.  In the age of nascent online secondary schooling, competition has induced the need for brick and mortar campuses to differentiate themselves by touting experiences outside textbooks — where dynamic thinking skills are accrued.  These are vital programs within American higher education centers:  programs that promote cultural enlightenment, community service, new paradigms, art, and incubate innovation, immerse in local tradition, and distill zeitgeist and sense of place. This begets quality of life, cultural identity, and fulfilling experiences, and is a magnet for drawing creative new students to the campus.  KDVS provides all these aspects.     

With the continued monocentric take on education, collapse of social venues from coronavirus, and the gentrification of the Davis community, areas for art, music, and community, student-incubated cultural experiences have been cut or marginalized.  This is seen from the current (even prior to COVID-19) virtual absence of concert venues within a college town (e.g., The Palms, The Third and B Center, Cheezers Pizza, The Cantina, The Davis Grad all R.I.P.), the elimination of the Experimental College in 2005, the discontinuation of UC Davis Coffeehouse concerts, the elimination of Freeborn as an entertainment venue, the attempted closure of the UC Davis Domes in 2011, and the cessation of Campus Cinema precipitated by a renovation of Chem 194 that failed to accommodate for motion picture projection anymore.  Recently the music memorabilia collection of ex-KZAP DJ Dennis Newhall, formerly the Sacramento Rock & Radio Museum, was acquired in full last year by California State University Sacramento.  Some of us had hoped that UC Davis Special Collections could have added to its exciting music poster collection which included several Davis posters. 

KDVS runs with a live operator 24 hours/day with ASUCD and independent community funding.  UC Davis should make KDVS a priority — recognizing its cultural significance, economic value, university promotion, and irreplaceable local public service — by maintaining or boosting its facility space.  KDVS should not be downsized or omitted from campus, with it’s historic record library eviscerated.  KDVS is important as any other academic department on campus, campus athletics, activities at Mondovi, or campus museum or gallery.  Arts, music, cultural diversity, journalism and university-created media should not just subsist as an afterthought of what basement room it can be stuffed in.  KDVS is part of the local history and something that makes UC Davis, Davis, and Sacramento a unique place. 
If you like to support KDVS, please sign the petition and write a letter expressing your thoughts on the matter. Also, continue reading about Freeborn Hall.