Student voices on the air with USSU Radio Show

Nour Abouhamra takes on student issues weekly on the USSU Radio Show.

Nour Abouhamra takes on student issues weekly on the USSU Radio Show.

Every Tuesday at 7 p.m. the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Radio Show goes on air at 90.5 FM to spread the word on student issues around Saskatoon.

USSU Vice-President Student Affairs Nour Abouhamra is this year’s host of the union Radio Show.

As a spoken word show, Abouhamra plays little music in the 30-minute time slot but covers student issues and events on campus extensively.

Featuring weekly guests, Abouhamra has had Jack Saddleback, co-ordinator of the USSU Pride Centre, to talk about the centre’s events as well a number of members of University Students’ Council to talk about their student groups. Abouhamra has also welcomed members of the USSU executive — President Max FineDay, Vice-President Operations and Finance Jenna Moellenbeck and Vice-President Academic Affairs Jordan Sherbino to the show.

Outside of the USSU, Abouhamra has had students from the School of Environment and Sustainability Students’ Association to discuss sustainability on campus, Edward’s School of Business talk about their annual LB5Q fundraiser, law students from the Program of Legal Studies for Native People as well as Just Rights — a student group dedicated to human rights.

Abouhamra has also taken up the topics of mental health, sexual assault awareness and open-textbooks.

She said that controversial topics make for good discussions, which is why she is not shying away from the hot topic of TransformUS — a university initiative dedicated to prioritizing academic programs and support services.

“A major controversial topic that will be coming up soon is TransformUS,” Abouhamra said. “I believe there will be a lot of discussion on that. I don’t want student voices to be lost in this process and that is why I will be dedicating a lot of time to that.”

On Dec. 9 students will be informed as to which programs are recommended to be eliminated, enhanced or left as are, and Abouhamra wants to have students voice their concerns and opinions.

Occasionally students approach Abouhamra wanting her to discuss an issue on the show. One of the most recent examples is the Filipino Students’ Association. Following Typhoon Haiyan, a group of students at the U of S undertook fundraising to help the Philippines and promoted their cause on the show.

“If anyone has anything that they want to come on the radio show, if they have an issue that they’d like to discuss or concerns or an event even that they want to advertise or promote, they can always contact me and we’ll try to schedule them in,” Abouhamra said.

However, when asked if she ever seeks out professors, Abouhamra said the show is solely for students.

“I think the radio show is a great way of getting student voices heard by the community. There is always more we can do to get student voices heard and we try to explore all avenues.”

As the vice-president of student affairs, Abouhamra’s job entails her to answer the needs of students on campus. She said running the show has helped her find and address issues that students are facing when she’s not behind the mic.

“This is one of the main reasons I focus on issues that affect students,” she said. “It helps me look at issues at hand from a different perspective and I am able to make better-informed decisions.”

Once she became familiar with the studio equipment, Abouhamra said the only challenge she has with the show is that she never knows what her guests will say. Radio etiquette is one issue she expected to deal with, but sometimes Abouhamra’s guests forget that their listeners aren’t in the studio with them.

“Most people forget when they’re on the radio is that listeners can’t see them. There were times when I would ask a question and my guest would nod their head,” she said.

Reinstating a campus radio station is appealing to Abouhamra and although she said that student interest wouldn’t be an issue, she is concerned that it would not be a priority for the U of S to take on.

“I think that would be a great idea,” Abouhamra said. “I’m not really sure for the reasons why the radio station on campus, CJUS, was shut down before, but if we could get it started up again, if the university had a new plan to do that, I think a lot of students would show interest.”

Radio broadcasting has been a constant element in U of S student life since the first broadcast from the independent university radio station on Dec. 9, 1965.

Though no longer a full-fledged station, nearly 50 years later the philosophy of the USSU Radio Show has diverged very little from its original intent to offer the Saskatoon community with educational programs that spotlight student life at the U of S.

Until September of 1984, the U of S had its own radio channel that students could tune in to for campus-related news and to listen to shows tailored to their demographic. The station, CJUS-FM, was the university’s first and only independent radio station for nearly 20 years.

In 1985, the Community Radio Society of Saskatoon formed and bought all of the equipment formerly used at the university radio station. Saskatoon’s community radio station CFCR went on air in 1991. In 2005, the USSU officially began it’s own radio show that has been hosted weekly on Tuesdays throughout the school year.

Photo: Arshviny Ollegasagrem