A talk with the WMUA programmer and general manager for 2017-2018

By Andrew Cunningham

WMUA is the student radio station at UMass Amherst. Many of you reading this may be familiar with our news team, but there’s so much more that goes on at the college radio station. This past month, the general body elected Josh McCawley as the new general manager and re-elected Misha Damsky as programmer.

“It’s a tremendous honor. I can remember reaching out to Andrew DesRochers, who was our general manager two years ago, and saying ‘I want your job one day,’” says McCawley. The general manager and programmer serve the executive committee (ECOMM) at WMUA along with an advisor. Our current interim advisor is Lloyd Henley, the UMass associate director of student activities, until a replacement is found.

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“It’s a tremendous honor. I can remember reaching out to [the general manager two years ago] and saying ‘I want your job one day.'” Photo courtesy of Josh McCawley. 
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“I definitely see myself more as a partner. I think it’s the DJs more than anything that do the outreach and talk to students.” Courtesy of Misha Damsky.

Together, the general manager and programmer work to ensure compliance with all Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules and regulations, and Student Government Association (SGA) Registered Student Organization (RSO) regulations and practices. Every week the general manager and programmer lead meetings with the department directors. And every other week, the ECOMM leads general body meetings with student and community member DJs.

WMUA general body meeting in 2013. Photo from WMUA 91.1 on Facebook

“I definitely want to build on rolling admissions,” says Damsky whose role as programmer is to ensure best programming practices among DJs. Damsky started rolling admissions this past semester, which means that any student or community member who has passed DJ training can apply for an empty time slot – even if it’s the middle of the semester. In the past, DJs could only apply once throughout the semester for a specific time slot.

McCawley, who still contributes to WMUA Sports and was the former finance director, wants to set up a second on-air stream. For those of you who are WMUA DJs, you might be familiar with how news or sports programming may sometimes take over your music block to broadcast a time sensitive events – with the second on-air stream, that pre-emption will no longer happen. McCawley has worked a lot with administration and local businesses and plans to make sure that WMUA 91.1 FM plays as much as possible throughout campus and the Pioneer Valley.

“I definitely want to change the way we fundraise and the way we do community outreach,” says McCawley whose role as general manager requires him to make final decisions on the budget and network with administration and other college radio stations.

Overall, both Damsky and McCawley agree that WMUA’s DJs make up the face of the station.

“I definitely see myself more as a partner. I think it’s the DJs more than anything that do the outreach and talk to students,” says Damsky.

“Our DJs are definitely the face of WMUA. I may be the business figure head, so to speak. But our DJs are the front porch of WMUA. They are the greatest recruiting asset,” says McCawley.


Music Review: Vundabar


The three person band Vundabar is on tour now performing “Gawk” their most recent album, released in 2015.

Rolling and crashing drums, lilting vocals, punchy guitar and dreamy bass combine in Gawk in a way that sounds more mature and calculated than their older hits. This is all the more impressive considering their admittedly young age! These college-aged kids are relatable, and easy to root for.

The instant hit “Oulala” has helped land Vundabar features with Vice, Sound of Boston, and Spin Magazine. This four and a half minute track is accessible punk that’s treading into pop territory. If you love the Pixies, you should give Vundabar a shot. They have perfected the loud-soft-then loud again style, combining signature angry sound with mellower hooks.

Kingdom of the Young: an interview with Edie Meidav and Kevin Salem

By Becky Wandel and Katie Donegan

Edie Meidav is a professor in the Humanities and Fine Arts’ MFA program at UMass. Her new book Kingdom of the Young is set to hit the shelves next month. She will kick off her book tour here at UMass on April 6th, accompanied by Kevin Salem, a musician and friend who produced an album to accompany the short story collection.

Meidav’s collection of short stories, Kingdom of the Young, explore her bohemian youth of wonderlust and adventure.

“These stories more than my other novels are an attempt to heal the wound of otherness,” says Meidav.

Kevin Salem composed an album with the same name, but the music isn’t meant to be listened to “like background music” while people read the book, says Salem. In a way, the project was a challenge for both artists in non-revision.

“I decided to approach music the way that she writes books,” Salem says. And what he means by that is to sit down and compose the first thoughts and ideas that come to mind.

The two collaborators don’t work in the traditional sense.

“We don’t sit down and discuss it. It’s kind of like our little artistic high five to each other,” Salem says.

“I always think that it’s not that you make a friend, it’s that you recognize a friend,” Meidav says about her friendship with Salem.

The HR 610 bill is “a little scary”: an interview with UMass Professor Sireci

By Phillip Bishop

The HR 610 is one of the bills introduced to Congress that would change the way it distributes funds to elementary and secondary schools. The bill would also lower nutritional standards.

“It’s a little scary repealing the Elementary and Secondary Act, which goes back to Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1965. It was really designed to protect civil rights and to try and making education equitable across racial and socioeconomic barriers,” says Stephen Sireci, a professor in the Psychometrics program at the University Massachusetts Amherst.

Federal funds for schools would be distributed in the form of vouchers for eligible students. Sireci says there isn’t enough research on the program.

“When you hear about it first, you think, yeah that might be a good thing. And that’s kind of where the conversation is. We want to give parents more choices, of course. We want to make sure that the child goes to a school they want to go to. However, this is an under researched idea. The research that has been done on charter schools, for example, is equivocal,” Sireci says.

“If you ask me, Steve, what’s the most pressing problems in education today. Charter schools and vouchers wouldn’t even be in my top 100. It’s a little disappointing that’s where the focus is,” Sireci says.

The Curious Case of the Ash Tree

By: NohJun Park

Spring is just around the corner. The gloomy looking trees will start to put on their green coats again — while we shed our winter coats. But there’s an alarming problem for one species of trees — and that’s the ash tree.

In 2002, an exotic type of beetle was found in Detroit. The emerald ash borer beetle feasts on the foliage of ash trees — which isn’t the problem. It’s that it lays its larvae on the trees.

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Larvae of emerald ash borer beetle.

“Our trees are just not suited to deal with this particular insect. And whenever there’s an infestation, the tree is essentially killed,” says Richard Harper, the extension assistant professor at UMass Amherst.

UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape teamed up with the Massachusetts Agricultural of Resource to track down these beetles. Eight towns in the Berkshire County have already detected some of them since 2012.

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“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out.”

“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out,” Harper says. “When you lose a tree species, it’s essentially lost or degraded in terms of its presence in the environment in a very drastic manner.”

A way to stop invasive species is to literally fight back. According to the USDA, millions of tiny parasitic wasps have been released to counter to borer. The wasps lay eggs inside of the larvae of the borer to prevent them from hatching on the ash trees. You can report findings of borer beetles at massnrc.org.

Find your NYC roommate through a matchmaking service: Perfect Strangers of NYC

Finding a place to live in New York city after graduating is hard enough. But finding a roommate? That might be even harder. Sarah Beth Hill is the founder and CEO of Perfect Strangers of NYC.

After graduating from UMass Amherst in 2010, Hill was offered a real estate job. She was required to move to New York City within a weekend.

“I literally had to find a place to stay in a weekend and I used Craigslist as the only resource I knew available,” Hill recalls. “And in the process of having to go on Craigslist and meeting this individuals at their apartments for the first time — I realized how sketchy that was. And being entrepreneurial myself, I realized that I could probably make a difference and create a service to help people move [to New York City].”

Hill started off by blogging and that eventually transformed into a “full blown service” in 2012. The service, Perfect Strangers of NYC, asks clients to fill out a questionnaire to help match them with the perfect roommate.

Sarah Beth Hill (center) with Jaclyn (left) and Bianca (right) at the UMass Women of Isenberg Conference March 3, 2017. Photography by Mayank Mishra.

Most of the clients want to have their own personal lives, but to be friendly with their roommates, says Hill.

Perfect Strangers of NYC is “tech enabled human verified,” which means that Hill and her colleagues meet the clients in person before pairing them up with their roommate.

“Even though we have them fill out this very detailed questionnaire, we essentially verify it by an in-person meeting. And once we’re able to verify the perfect apartment for them, we’re then able to match them with the best roommates,” says Hill.

There’s also a Perfect Strangers of NYC internship right here on the UMass campus. The brand ambassadors’ main task is to bring Hill back to UMass and educate students about moving to New York.

“Many people think that New York City is just Manhattan. And that’s definitely not the case. There are many boroughs outside of Manhattan,” says Hill. “I teach students to look at other neighborhoods besides the main ones they can think about like East Village, SoHo or Tribeca.”

For more information on Perfect Strangers NYC, check out their website: http://www.psofnyc.com/

Interview by Lucy Martirosyan

Production by Lucy Martirosyan

Photo credit: Mayank Mishra

2017 SGA Debate live stream

WMUA News brings you a live stream of the SGA candidates for President, Vice President, and Student Trustee for the 2017-2018 school year. The event was hosted Sunday evening at the Commonwealth Honors College from 6-8pm.

Current President Anthony Vitale and Vice President Lily Wallace are running for reelection. Lily Wallace recently took over the Vice Presidential position when Vitale’s former VP resigned.

Two Senators from the class of 2020 are running against the incumbents.  Presidential candidate Nathalie Amazan and her running mate Timmy Sullivan serve as undersecretaries of sustainability. Amazan sits on the social justice and empowerment committee of SGA.

Lincoln Quang Duong is also running for the position of President, who currently serves as a member of the finance committee. He is a solo candidate, but has told WMUA News that his first executive priority is to appoint a Vice President.

Candidates answered questions from moderator Dan Mahoney and from the audience on the topics of diversity, sustainability, accessibility, and transparency.

The SGA elections will take place March 6, 7, and 8 through Campus Pulse. Listen to our exclusive interviews with the candidates on this site.

Photo Courtesy of Lucy Martirosyan

Engineering by Lucy Martirosyan, Katie Donegan, and Josh McCawley

Hosting by Lisa Robinson and Katie Donegan

Music by Tycho