(Host) The University of Vermont is resisting calls to drop its sports broadcasting contract with a local radio station, which also carries conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s show. VPR’s Kirk Carapezza reports.
(Carapezza) Last week, members of UVM’s Faculty Senate sent a letter to President John Bramley urging him to cut ties with WVMT-AM.
That was after Rush Limbaugh used his platform to call Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "prostitute" because she says birth control pills should be covered by insurance.
Geology professor Charlotte Mehrtens led demands that UVM drop WVMT.
(Mehrtens) "I really don’t care what he says and does. What I care about is what are UVM’s business relationships? Who do we want to be associated with?"
(Carapezza) Mehrtens says UVM shouldn’t have its sports on the same station as Limbaugh because he doesn’t reflect the institution’s values.
(Mehrtens) "I think you’re asking an awful lot of the public to say there’s no relationship between these. I mean that’s what advertising is about; that’s why over 40 people have dropped advertisements on the Rush Limbaugh Show because they don’t want their product affiliated with that product."
(Carapezza) President Bramley says it’s not so black and white.
(Bramley) "I think it’s important that the university should disassociate itself from remarks that Limbaugh made to the female law student. I think we’ve also communicated our concerns to the radio station because we have a relationship with them."
(Carapezza) Instead of dropping the contract, Bramley and the university have asked people upset with Limbaugh to directly contact WVMT.
(Bramley) "And we also asked WVMT to make some other minor adjustments like not referring to [itself] as being the voice of the Catamounts."
(Carapezza) WVMT has a contract to broadcast UVM’s women’s basketball and men’s hockey games and it pays UVM a small fee for the privilege.
(Goldman) "I’d do whatever the university would like me to do to keep my relationship with them."
(Carapezza) Paul Goldman is President and General Manager of Sison Broadcasting which owns WVMT.
He says after Limbaugh’s comments, the station moved all local advertisers outside of his show.
(Goldman) "Because, frankly, some of the people were actually bullying local customers."
(Carapezza) He insists the station has no plans to drop the show – one of its most popular programs – before UVM’s contract runs out in 2016.
(Goldman) "If you really want to affect change, get people to stop listening to Rush. He is not my employee, OK? He is not my employee."
(Carapezza) UVM says the controversy presents an opportunity to encourage more discussion about gender issues on campus.
For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza.