A new network at the college

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.

In 1978, WCVF obtained an FM license and a transmitter and tower were installed in “the tower of power” Maytum Hall. This could have been done as early as 1964 but then President Oscar Lanford was fearful of the college “being embarrassed.” He even suggested limiting the range to that of the campus. That would have required burying the antenna.

Another opportunity was missed when Fredonia was offered the management of the Empire State FM School of the Air moving it from Syracuse University. This “network” utilized the largest commercial FM stations in the state to transmit instructional programs to the schools of the state. (Even the private schools since the programs were transmitted over the “free” air.)

Formal credit bearing classes have been taught in the radio studio space ranging from classes in piano to sophisticated audio production. Actual over-the air credit bearing courses like “The News” offered by the Political Science Department or “History of Jazz.”

Initially it looked as though McEwen Hall would be a hotbed of activity. A high-powered director, Dr. Robert Diamond, was hired. Dr. Diamond had a national reputation and was most interested in developing the forerunner of today’s computer generated instruction. It was titled “Programmed Instruction.” By himself and with other faculty Dr. Diamond put together a series of booklets, many illustrated by him that moved people through a series of problems that offered choices. If you missed a question you were referred to another section of the booklet. If you were correct you moved directly to the end. By today’s standards this was pretty cumbersome but it was unique in the 1960s.

In the ’60s all of the four-year campus directors had earned doctorates. Albany insisted that these media programs be given first-rate attention.

Dr. Diamond came on board even before McEwen was completed. His staff was put together in some very creative ways.

A line was borrowed from the Art Department. The campus school audio-visual director was drafted. Yours truly was also requested to “help out” serving much like a graduate assistant in the teaching of graduate courses in instructional media for the Education Department. (No additional compensation-this kind of thing preceded the establishment of the union-United University Professions-UUP.) The Lanford-headed administration was good at this type of thing as lines were combined from a number of sources.

Some other “high powered” people were enticed into coming to Fredonia by being allowed to live in some of the vacant houses purchased by the college.