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SMC-TV to broadcast after break

Molly Lamping | Thursday, March 9, 2006

Saint Mary’s students tuning in to channel three upon returning from spring break will finally see the fruit of a seed planted in spring of 2004 – the College’s very own TV station.

Originally slated to go on the air at the beginning of the semester, SMC-TV’s kick-off has been anticipated by students for a few months.

“I knew it was coming eventually, but I thought it would be here sooner,” freshman Kelly Gasior said.

Two weeks from today, however, the wait will be over.

“There is officially no longer a hold-up,” SMC-TV General Manager Michelle Fitzgerald said. “The President’s Cabinet has granted us permission to start broadcasting.”

SMC-TV is ‘strictly a student organization,’ Fitzgerald said. The delay occurred because the station had to go through the President’s Council to obtain that special status. A decision was made so the station will not have to answer to Student Activities Board to preserve freedom of speech and expression. In the rare event that station officials cannot make a decision, a station advisory council – consisting of faculty and staff members – will step in.

“To build a strong foundation to such a monumental thing at Saint Mary’s, we wanted to make sure all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted – and the j’s, too,” Fitzgerald said.

Keith Fowlkes, director of information technology and SMC-TV faculty advisor, said those behind the station aimed to put the “best product possible” out for students.

“We were getting all our bases covered to ensure quality programming,” Fowlkes said.

SMC-TV is currently on the air in the form of a scrolling billboard of campus news and events – something that led several students to think this was the station’s only purpose.

“The only thing I know [about SMC-TV] is just the ads they run on TV,” freshman Emily Perry said.

Fitzgerald, a senior, said the programming of SMC-TV will be much more diverse once it goes on the air after spring break.

“SMC-TV is going to make a concerted effort to cover everything that happens on campus, not just sports or art exhibits, but senior [comprehensive] presentations and lectures,” she said. “Things like Theology on Fire and the diversity conference we had last week, we’ll have cameras there.”

The weekly programming will consist of a news program to inform students about events happening around campus as well as two or three shows, including a possible exercise show and a cooking show. Fitzgerald said she hopes faculty and student forums on various issues will also be sponsored and broadcast by SMC-TV.

“It’s really just a 21st century version of being an informed human being,” Vince Berdayes, communications professor and SMC-TV faculty advisor, said.

The programming schedule is drawing both positive and negative reactions from students.

“I think it will definitely help to keep people more up-to-date on current events, because a lot of people aren’t,” freshman Lisa Anderson said.

Senior Ashley Peltier said though she sees positive parallels between SMC-TV and Notre Dame’s station, ND-TV, she wishes it would have been started earlier – and other students agreed.

“I don’t feel like much is going to happen,” junior Megan Osberger said. “I’m sure it will pick up, but I don’t think we [upperclassmen] will ever see much out of it.”

Regardless of differing opinions, Berdayes remains confident that SMC-TV will bring about academic change.

“In the communications department, we have been building a sequence of courses on film production,” Berdayes said. “So, now there will be a group of people around campus who will be able to go out and create their own productions.”

Fitzgerald said advertising opportunities on the channel will be plentiful for on-campus organizations and businesses in the South Bend community.

“Sodexho is really interested in having lots of ad time,” she said.

Anderson, a member of student government, said she believes SMC-TV will be very helpful to advertising events on campus.

“Not everyone reads the posters we put up, but they do watch TV,” Anderson said.

SMC-TV will be accessible to students not just from their rooms but also in the dining hall.

“The TV that is currently in the CyberCafe will be moved to the dining hall and a 14-inch TV will be placed above the dessert bar so students can watch SMC-TV while enjoying their meals,” Fitzgerald said.

SMC-TV is based in the Huisking Family Instructional Technology Resource Center, located near Trumper Computer Center in the basement of the Cushwa-Leighton Library. Fitzgerald said the Huisking family is “the primary source of funding for SMC-TV.”

In addition to the nine students and three faculty members on the core executive staff, about 20 other students are already involved in the project – all are busy drumming up interest among the student body for the new programming when school resumes March 20.