The Northfield News has a story in today’s paper titled WCAL controversy continues at St. Olaf: Attorney General rules college had no right to sell:
SaveWCAL, the group formed in August of 2004 to fight the sale, argued from the beginning that St. Olaf acted wrongly when it agreed to sell the beloved listener-supported station. The station should have been recognized as a charitable trust, members of the group said. Donations to WCAL by listeners were merely held by the college. St. Olaf had no right to sell the station without donor’s permission, they said.
On Wednesday, the state Attorney General’s office agreed with SaveWCAL. It declared WCAL a charitable trust. Michael Cunningham, St. Olaf’s attorney, and attorney Michael McNabb of SaveWCAL have until July 9 to respond to the Attorney General’s ruling. Depending on St. Olaf’s response, the case may be reviewed again by the Attorney General’s office, then turned over to Judge Gerald Wolf by July 17. The sale of WCAL could be declared void, McNabb said, which would be a major victory for SaveWCAL which has hoped for three years to reinstate what it sees as its members’ radio station.
Last week, City Pages ran a feature story titled WCAL: A Trust Betrayed: Alumni are cutting St. Olaf out of their wills in protest of the decision to sell WCAL. (Cynthia Child blogged the CP story on N.org.) There’s no mention of the CP story nor the Attorney General’s decision on the St. Olaf News web site.
The SaveWCAL weblog reports that St. Olaf, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Howard Hong…
“…is very concerned that a future administration might sell the highly valuable rare book collection in the Kierkegaard Library (the largest in the world and assessed in the millions of dollars), and then argue that since the Kierkegaard Library no longer exists, that the college be permitted to use the funds in the Kierkegaard Library endowment (and its sub-accounts) for purposes other than what the donors requested.”
Update 6/29: I’ve changed the headline of the blog post from “rules in favor of” to “agrees with” since only the court can ‘rule.’
I found myself wondering what exactly SaveWCAL was looking to accomplish, and thought others might wonder the same.
I now wonder what this “restored” station would look like, how much this once profitable station would cost the college to run again (if they put any money at all into it), and how much SaveWCAL is willing to put St. Olaf through to make it happen.
The statement seems to signify support for the station because of its benefit to the school and how the loss of the station hurt the school, but the actions of the organization seem to be extending the harm considerably further (and even has the potential for disasterously damaging the school), without much chance, IMHO, of returning the station to its former glory. The Regents may have made a poor decision in the sale and its handling, but how good of a decision is SaveWCAL now making in this “support” of the school?
Note: My wife worked for WCAL. I adamantly disagreed with the sale and its handling (and am on the record for doing so in the St’rib’). I do not feel St. Olaf had the right to do with the station what it willed without the consent of its financial contributors, nor do I feel it now has the right to do with the money donated to WCAL what it wills without the consent of the contributors.
I would have to agree with Alex. Is SaveWCAL going to force St. Olaf to run a station St. Olaf’s leaders do not want? That’s going to be a tough sell, even with public support.
Now, on to self-promotion, here’s my recent take on the situation:
I’m not an expert but isn’t the issue (being considered by our judicial system), “Did St. Olaf College have the legal right to sell WCAL’s assets?” NOT “What does SaveWCAL want to do with a used radio station?”
Yes, you’re correct, that is the legal issue. And I would have to say it looks like St. Olaf did not have the rights they claimed, and that the SaveWCAL people have been right the whole time. Good for them.
I’m simply asking: To what end? As Alex points out SvaeWCAL claims to want everything back as it was before the sale. My question is: How?
Brendon, I completely agree. I never really took much of a position on the sale back in 2004, but I wonder what good SaveWCAL will do now. This isn’t even like voiding the sale of books (the quote in the post), which could be easily transferred back. You can’t just “undo” the disbanding of an organization.
And then, of course, what about The Current? What about MPR? And how is St. Olaf supposed to fund whatever they were spending the $10 million on? Even if this sale was wrong from the beginning, at this point voiding it just seems to hurt everyone involved.
I’m not with the naysayers on this one. Sean writes: “Even if this sale was wrong from the beginning, at this point voiding it just seems to hurt everyone involved.” That sounds like Bush justifying the war in Iraq. All the reasons we gave you for going to war were wrong, but it’s too late now. I find SaveWCAL’s legal victory immensely satisfying. When those in power have betrayed a trust, the legal system should hold them to account.
Agreed, Rob, people should be able to hold others accountable in the legal system. SaveWCAL had every right to, and they appear to have been (legally) correct as well.
Your analogy falls flat, however. The Iraq war is still going; it can be ended. The sale of WCAL is done. It can’t be ended, only “un-done”… I would like to know how?
This does not mean SaveWCAL was wrong to pursue their case, only that I am at a loss as to what end this brings things, particularly when SaveWCAL seems to have restoring the station to St. Olaf’s control as their “preferred outcome.”
I’m sure others have expertise in knowing how cases such as this proceed from here. I do not, but, as I wrote previously, SaveWCAL’s plan seems like a tough sell.
It seems to me that the much more realistic goal would be – putting it simplistically – to give WCAL’s donors their money back.
To paraphrase a different war analogy, SaveWCAL may have won (may be winning) the battle, but isn’t the war already over?
Rob Hardy said:
Harsh. And you make a point, but I’m going to nitpick — there’s a significant benefit to be had by ending an ongoing war: fewer people dying in the future. The other side of that, not ending the war: more people dying in the future.
Now take the two options to WCAL. Reversing the sale: A few jobs are created at WCAL, MPR people lose their jobs, thousands of Current listeners disappointed, St. Olaf loses $11 million. Not reversing the sale: all continues smoothly (save for a few remaining bitter WCAL lovers).
That’s doesn’t include every pro and con, of course. There is a benefit (if in fact St. Olaf did act inappropriately) of wrongdoings being noted and wrongdoers being penalized. So I guess if this judge does agree with SaveWCAL and the Attorney-General’s office, it would be best if St. Olaf could just give the donors their money back — as Brendon suggested. I doubt it could be that neat and easy, but it sure would be nice.
I’ve changed the headline of the blog post from “rules in favor of” to “agrees with” since evidently only the court can ‘rule.’
A St. Olaf VP has a letter to the editor in this week’s Nfld News, objecting to last week’s coverage:
In tomorrow’s Star Tribune:
WCAL fans fight on for reversal of sale
Brendon Etter says:
“It seems to me that the much more realistic goal would be – putting it simplistically – to give WCAL’s donors their money back.”
Minnesota law does not allow that remedy.
Last week’s Northfield News had an update on this: New judge will look at donations to WCAL post-sale
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