Last school year, flipping your radio to 101.7 FM would have brought you a 24-hour stream of star-spangled tunes. This year, under the leadership of General Manager Scot Bertram, the student shows WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale are growing into their own.
Some shows, like weird-news hour “Off Topic,” and the aptly named “Science & Ethics,” are rolling into their second semester. Others are launching all the time: “The Michael Lucchese Show” got its start just this week. Between them, they cover an impressive swath of campus life and discussion, from politics to philosophy to music to Hillsdale news to sports.
“Off Topic,” the brainchild of sophomores Dylan Strehle, Shadrach Strehle, and Ross Hatley, bills itself as “a place of low-key, low-tension discussion.” In a given broadcast, the three hosts may debate the worth of Taylor Swift in the “Judge Hatley” segment, unpack the Super Bowl’s Stranger Things 2 commercial, and reminisce about the “middle school emo phase.”
“When we first thought of the idea of doing the show, we thought — well, it’s Hillsdale College, everyone’s going to want to do a political talk show, everyone’s going to want to come out and spout their opinions,” Dylan Strehle said. “So the original thought in our minds was, what would be a good antithesis to that? So we thought we would do a morning show, something fun, a little bit of the variety show, nothing too serious.”
Weighing in on the more serious side is “Science & Ethics,” a biweekly show in which seniors Lillian Quinones and Madeline Johnson interview Hillsdale professors and outside experts on technology and humane issues.
“It kind of capitalizes on our respective strengths: She’s a biochem major, I’m a philosophy major,” Johnson said. “When we know who our guest is, we try to come up with questions that are a mix of just popularizing whatever they’re talking about for a general audience and trying to ask more directly philosophical questions, kind of frame whatever their particular area is in a way that brings it into conversation with other fields, other disciplines. And then we just have a conversation.”
When Quinones wanted to start a show as a project for Bertram’s radio class, she asked Johnson to co-host to represent the philosophical side of the conversation.
“I love public radio; I listen to NPR a lot, so just on an aesthetic level I enjoyed the idea of intelligent conversation in a recorded format,” Johnson said. “But also Lily and I have had a lot of conversations and we’re always trying to bridge our disciplines, so the idea of something interdisciplinary was exciting, just learning to talk to different people who have very different basic frameworks.”
One of the newest shows to the WRFH roster is junior Dean Sinclair and senior Kayla Stetzel’s “On Air with Stetzel and Sinclair,” the station’s first music program since the initial 24-hour patriotic one. But this show is more likely to feature garage rock from California or dance music from Sweden than John Philip Sousa.
“It’s mostly wall-to-wall music with some commentary sprinkled in,” Stetzel said. “We each pick five songs and then we talk about them. There’s a really good mixture of stuff: Dean and I both have very eclectic music tastes, but our tastes at the same time are very distinct from each other.”
Stetzel said she has been trying to lay the groundwork for the show since she first heard about the plans to create WRFH, but organizational delays kept them from starting until this semester.
“I needed to find somebody who is going to be dedicated, will put in the hours, will put in the time, knows a crapton about music — and, lightbulb, I was like, I just described Dean Sinclair,” Stetzel said. “So I reached out to him, and he was really excited about it.”
Other student shows rounding out the roster include a Hillsdale history segment, “Wait, What Happened?” hosted by juniors Sarah Schutte and Chandler Lasch; a Hillsdale athletics show, “Charger Rundown,” hosted by senior Kat Torres; and “Right Wing & Red Wings,” a show about hockey and politics show from junior Jenna Suchyta.
The radio station may be blossoming quickly, but Dylan Strehle stressed that it is still in its infancy — which provides an opportunity for would-be jockeys.
“The fact that we’re still in the infancy of our station means that it’s a great time to get involved,” Strehle said. “Because there’s so much space open. We’re still at that phase where, if you come in here and you’ve got a really good idea, or you believe you do, and you’re willing to put the work in, you’re going to get a slot. That’s one of the best things about coming in at this time, is that the reason why we exist as a show is, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, because they had no one else.”
“Three punks talking about nothing considered trailblazers?” Hatley said. “How’d that happen?”