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Bedbugs Shut Down U. Of C. Radio Station While 70 DJ Homes Inspected

By Sam Cholke | August 19, 2016 5:47am
 WHPK will likely remain off the air through much of August as all DJs' homes need to be checked for the source of the station's bedbug infestation.
WHPK will likely remain off the air through much of August as all DJs' homes need to be checked for the source of the station's bedbug infestation.
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Flickr/Avi Schwab

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago radio station will be off the air until at least Aug. 29 while the homes of all 70 DJs are inspected for the bedbugs that infested the station.

WHPK was poised to go back on the air on Monday after being shut down since Aug. 5, but station manager Zach Yost said Thursday it may now be much longer because university policy requires an exterminator to check every volunteer and employee’s home for the source of the bedbug infestation.

Yost said it was a tough situation.

Sam Cholke talks about the shutdown of WHPK.

“On the one hand, the inspection policy seems a bit draconian at face value. It's an inconvenience to our DJs and an intrusion into their privacy,” Yost said. “But I also understand that the university is looking to maintain the integrity and safety of a space that, while we operate, they ultimately own.”

The required home visits riled many of the station’s volunteer DJs, which include university students and people from the community.

Mario Smith, who has volunteered at the station for 15 years, said he left two weeks ago out of frustration.

“The failure to have the station on the air for three weeks is a major disservice to the community the U. of C. purports to serve,” Smith said. “Unless these bedbugs were as big as the bugs in ‘Starship Troopers,’ there is no way the station should've been off the air.”

Marielle Sainvilus, a spokeswoman for the university, said any time bedbugs are found in a university-owned building an exterminator is brought in and people affected are asked to have their homes checked.

“The WHPK radio station is an important part of our campus community, and in order to preserve the safety and sanitation of the studio and the Reynolds Club as a whole, it was necessary to temporarily close the studio to eradicate bed bugs and prevent them from spreading,” Sainvilus said. “The licensed pest control service the university has engaged has determined that there is no evidence of an ongoing infestation of the WHPK studio and spaces, and that the bed bugs are being brought into the station.”

She said the university is paying for the exterminator and is working to get WHPK back on the air. She said the bedbugs did not spread beyond the radio station.

But at least seven DJs have now left the station, in part because they were initially told they would have to pay for the home checks and residual frustrations over a new policy the university proposed in the spring requiring all DJs get a background check, according to Smith.

He said discouraging community members to be DJs would “sanitize any voices of dissent that broadcast from WHPK.

“It's agonizing that this is happening and I'm hurt more than anything,” Smith said. “This hurts man.”

Yost said the priority now is to get back on the air as soon as possible, even it’s not a full schedule, with the DJs who have finished the home checks.

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