By Robert Janoski
The soft ambient hums of the band Helios fills the air as Steve Gulotta sits down in his dorm room. Although he has a quiet demeanor, akin to the band playing in the background, the subject of the University’s campus radio station lights up his face, and excitement clings to his words.
“Back in high school I always had a passion for college radio,” says Gulotta, recounting his memories of listening to campus stations near his Scranton, Pa., roots.
In fact, when he began his college search, one of his criteria was to attend a school that had a radio station. He recalls with a chuckle asking his tour guide about Villanova’s station, 89.1 WXVU. Not far into his freshmen year he began to DJ.
Flashing forward a little over three years, Gulotta is now the general manager of WXVU. He sat down eagerly to discuss the operations of the station and its value to the college experience.
Villanova’s campus radio station was started in the ’40’s, originally as an AM station called KXVU based in Tolentine Hall. In the ’80’s it switched both wavelength and location, to FM and Dougherty Hall 210 respectively, according to Gulotta.
Villanova shares their Federal Communications Commission license with nearby Cabrini College. The former broadcasts live onto the airwaves on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and the first half of Sundays, while the latter broadcasts during the remaining time slots, Gulotta says. Additionally, WXVU streams their programming 24/7 online at wxvu.villanova.edu, Gulotta says.
This programming is an eclectic mix spread out over six categories: Radio 200—-which comprises general and stereotypical college music—–hip-hop, RPM (electronic music), loud rock, sports talk and normal talk, Gulotta says.
Overall, Gulotta says that the station has roughly 90 student DJs, and is run by a 12–person executive board, also comprised entirely of students. While the station does have station managers that supervise the staff and serve to communicate between students and the Board of Trustees—–who legally owns their FCC license—-the managers and board do not get involved with station content, Gulotta says.
Instead, the students are able to dictate what they play and when it’s played. Most team up with at least one cohost, and shows are all one and a half hours, according to Gulotta.
This creative freedom embodies what Gulotta says is unique and valuable about college radio in general, particularly at the University.
“Being a student-run station, WXVU gives students the opportunity to get involved in not only the day-to-day running of the station, but they also have the freedom to do whatever they want with their shows,” Gulotta says. “If you want to do a show about mid-1920’s Romanian throat singing, you can.”
Deanna Archetto, the manager of the College Music Journal’s Station of the Year award winner, Boston University’s WTBU, echoes Gulotta’s stressing of student freedom as critical to the campus radio experience in a recent USA Today article.
Gulotta also points out that the University is in the minority as a student-run campus station while other college stations, especially in the Philadelphia market, are operated by their communications department. He says stations such as those broadcasting from the University of Pennsylvania and Cabrini can dictate what is played, but lack the expression and experience that WXVU can offer.
In addition to these creative benefits, Gulotta also sees campus radio in general as having a positive impact on student lives and experience. Speaking quickly and with purpose, he remarks how students are able to get exposure to new things by working with college radio.
Students gain new friendships, and their eyes are opened to new musical experiences. A lot of music—–and sometimes even tickets for concerts—–are sent into college stations by promoters for prereleases, so volunteers get exposed to new material that the world at large has not heard yet, Gulotta says. Additionally, the students that work for campus radio tend to have unique tastes in general, further enveloping students in great people, tastes and tunes, he says.
Gulotta also sees potential career benefits arising from radio involvement, mentioning how WXVU is a real station that broadcasts just as bigger stations would, and noting how useful this experience is if a student is debating going into broadcasting professionally.
Apart from being a unique and powerful cultural and social community representing a unique slice of Villanova, WXVU is also involved in more concrete ways on campus.
At the end of every week, DJs play music outside the Connelly Center during their Happy Friday celebrations, Gulotta says. They also endorse a “No-Shave November” event to raise funds for Special Olympics, culminating in a 24-hour broadcast during the fall festival complete with music and athlete interviews, Gulotta says.
They also helped promote two concerts this year, which DJs were given free admission to—Two Door Cinema Club at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., and Tame Impala with The Flaming Lips at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.
Finally, the radio station plays music during freshmen move-in day, broadcasting from the roof of Dougherty, and also calls the football and basketball games. According to Gulotta, these sports streams are popular with students studying abroad and surrounding community members without tickets to the games.
Gulotta believes that WXVU has a decent campus presence, but his tone suggests room for improvement, and he laments that the station’s location, tucked away on the second floor of Dougherty, hides them from students.
He reacts similarly when discussing audience size. There is no way to track FM listeners, but he notes that the station’s online stream has a trackable bandwidth limit of 20 listeners.
“Some shows reach that limit,” he says, full of pride.
But the importance and value of campus radio appears to transcend how many people tune in. College radio, and in particular WXVU 89.1 at Villanova University, is more about fostering creative involvement that pays dividends socially, artistically and professionally. Without campus stations, the student experience would be lacking a critical opportunity to engage with their peers and produce a unique product for the world to enjoy.
Gulotta’s own show, mostly devoid of Romanian throat singing, is called Post-core. He describes it as “largely emo and punkish stuff with a little bit of folk—–said with a thick Scranton accent—–and a little bit of post-rock.”