As Director of French Studies, I look for ways to present our program as a dynamic and engaging course of studies and to maintain and strengthen our ties with Niagara Region’s Francophone population. (Over 50,000 Francophones live in the area; two cities – Welland and Port Colborne – are Designated Areas in Ontario where French is particularly strong.) With this idea in mind, one day in April 2013, I knocked one day on the door of the Brock Radio station in downtown St. Catharines, asked to see the Director and explained all of this to her. She laughed and answered back: “What about a French show? We are interested in shows that reflect cultural diversity.” What a welcome!
French Studies now has its show. “Tic-tac: poétiques et portraits” (Tuesdays from 5-6 p.m.) is entering its second year and we love it! Many of our students are enthusiastic about it, especially when their work (in French) is read on the waves. Many Francophones in the area have expressed their gratitude; some have kindly given us interviews. The Association of Franco-Ontarian Authors and the Toronto Francophone Book Fair have given us their support to make a number of interviews possible with Francophone writers. The radio has become an integral part of our program and we are always looking at new ways of developing the show.
We have also become more sensitive to and appreciative of what a radio station brings to a university. First and foremost, we praise the — essential — fun factor. The university routine is at times discouraging. (Haven’t we all had the experience of turning on the radio in order to relax and enjoy a few minutes of wandering thoughts?) Then — and this is, I believe, significantly more necessary than the first argument — a campus radio station, untouched by commercial dictates, is an experimental field and a creative space in which individuals can exercise their freedom.
In my opinion, this is exactly what the mission of a university should be: to provide a fertile environment where individuals learn how to think critically and, above all, independently. Also, campus radio stations promote diversity – this is where we listen to music elsewhere than from the charts, hear passionate and unusual reporting, learn from programming by minority members, get to discover talented and unconventional individuals who are unlikely to be heard in our increasingly conservative and acquiescent society. Finally, a campus radio station is an extraordinary home for experiential learning. Newcomers to the station will certainly notice the buzz of activity there. Students are trained expertly (and for free) around the year, not just to learn how to operate the equipment but also to develop a concept for their own show. More importantly, they become responsible for a long-term project promising many enriching moments – the day when we first figure out how to modulate our voice, the interview when we at last feel comfort- able to ask pertinent questions, the many times when we take the risk (and chance) of introducing something new in our show. All of this shines brightly on a CV. After all doesn’t the university these days encourage professionalization? Let’s give full credit to Brock Radio.
*Catherine Parayre is the director of French Studies at Brock University.