SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The musical choices of the Seton Hall University radio station were protested again yesterday. A crowd of about 35 standing beside the University gateway at South Orange Avenue and Centre Street called for the end of WSOU.
The press release for an unnamed “growing coalition of New Jersey Catholics” said that their aim was that WSOU, the university’s noncommercial radio station, “be shut down permanently.” They demonstrated at the home of Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, later in the afternoon.
Their objection to the station is that “500 feet from the seminary where many of New Jersey’s priests are educated and prepared for their vocations, WSOU, the radio station at Catholic diocesan Seton Hall University, is airing satanic, aggressively anti-Christian and obscenely violent material for a target audience of 12-34 year olds in the largest media market in North America.” The press release stated that “devout and increasingly determined Catholics [are] fed up with unending Church scandal in New Jersey and with bishops and priests unwilling to lead faithfully and courageously” and therefore they gathered “to confront the well developed Seton Hall and Newark Archdiocesan suppression machines with public action and hard evidence that can’t be ignored.”
The station's music is programmed in a “loud rock format,” according to its own description, playing such metal bands as Metallica, Slipknot, Misfits, Beartooth, Slayer, Anthrax, Mastodon and E-Town Concrete.
It also covers Seton Hall athletics and has programming of interest to the university community — including highlighting Black musicians in rock and roll for Black History Month — and carries out social service campaigns; the WSOU community raised almost $1000 for Community Food Bank of NJ in 2020. WSOU can be heard on 89.5 FM and can also be streamed via wsou.net.
The press release, signed by Catholic activists Maria Woltornist and Richard Smaglick, said that “since last fall, there have been 15 demonstrations at Seton Hall, at the Newark Archdiocesan Center and at the window of Cardinal Tobin’s residence, calling for WSOU to be shut down.” Seton Hall's student news outlet, The Setonian, has covered past protests.
The well-dressed protestors — most in business attire— called out chants, prayed the Hail Mary in unison, and listened to bagpipers playing. The protestors were largely unmasked.
WSOU general manager Mark Maben was away from the station yesterday; university spokesperson Laurie Pine emailed TAPinto SOMA a carefully worded statement that “WSOU’s advisory board comprised of WSOU students and alumni along with Seton Hall University clergy and administrators, meets regularly to review the station’s content and operating policies and standards.”
“The goal is to ensure that WSOU continues to realize its mission, goals, and long-held operating procedures. Further incorporating and integrating Catholic mission and ministry into WSOU’s wide-ranging and popular programming is always a priority,” she said.
Sean Quinn, Office of Communications and Public Relations representative for the Archdiocese of Newark, knew of yesterday’s protest but could not remark on it officially. “Currently, we haven’t made a statement on that matter,” he said, and offered to let TAPinto know it they do release a comment.
There were occasional honks of solidarity from cars passing a sign that read “Honk to protect our children,” but SHU senior Payton Beaver walked by the protest unfazed. “I’m not religious, so I don’t see rock music as a problem.” She said that although she doesn’t listen to the campus station, she thinks it is fine for them to play any programming they choose. “[Any] genre of music is just expressing yourself.” But “If it’s a Catholic school and a lot of people are against it, I guess you could shut it down,” she shrugged.
William O’Connell, also a senior, held a two-person counter-protest across the university driveway entrance with his sister, Bridget. “I’m a passionate listener,” he said. “I think what they do it great, and they’re great at it. They bring in a lot of wonderful awards for our university.” Among past awards, the station was a 2019 nominee for the Marconi Award for Best College Radio Station. “So I’m here to voice that, even if no one else can.”
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