Hidden along the border of Northeastern University’s Curry Student Center is a narrow hallway that is cluttered with mailboxes, posters and seats, all frozen in time. On the wall, there is a neon sign that glows in a piercing auburn and reads “On Air.” This is WRBB, the school’s public radio station, and this narrow hallway has seen a lot of history. In the last few decades, the station has evolved time and time again. As early as the 70’s, the station was used by countless students and residents alike to broadcast sports to the public, but in the early 90’s, the university sold part of the station’s accessibility and moved from AM to FM. Now, instead of reaching all of Boston, the station barely reaches the outskirts of Back Bay, and is predominantly used by students who are involved in the university’s club. This isn’t unheard of. In the last ten years, universities across the nation have been downsizing or completely selling their radio stations for a quick source of money, and the effects have not been great. Universities like Vanderbilt and Rice have all sold their licenses back to the FCC, and are now facing petitions from students to get them back. But, with the FCC, that is nearly impossible.
After downsizing, WRBB remained practically inactive until 2010, when the club acquired a new e-board, and student interest grew exponentially. As students became more and more interested, the station was able to host more events on campus and in turn get the school’s attention. Now, Northeastern is discussing the possibilities of broadcasting the student run station in public areas around the university. In the last year, the station has also set up a website and media team, and has managed to acquire exclusive interviews with countless artists. Hollis Jones, a veteran DJ at the station and a resident of Roxbury, explains this growth in students as something to be happy about. Jones had been hosting his own late night slow jams program on WRBB for twelve years, and he had never seen another face in the studio until then. “I remember never having a program preceding me or coming after me. I’d look at the schedule and see nothing but dead air until 10, when I would come on and play my songs until 2. Then I’d leave and come back the next week. But it felt like a dead zone. Now this place is booming with life, and I’m happy to see it.” Students and faculty alike are thankful that the school didn’t sell the radio station’s license, because its recent growth has led to a series of great projects. Block Party is a yearly concert series held by the station, and has hosted countless artists and students in Centennial Commons at the start of Fall Semester. Faculty members also use the station to advertise classes and events going on around campus. Next semester, many of the e-board members are graduating, but they aren’t scared of leaving the station, because they know it will be left in the hands of a student community that cares.