Kerfuffle at WFSS
June 15, 2012
Skye Dent, a former journalism instructor at Fayetteville State University, also known as the University of North Carolina-Fayetteville, has made some serious allegations about WFSS, the campus public radio station.
In turn, representatives of the university have made some serious allegations about Ms. Dent.
In her complaint to the ombudsman, Ms. Dent said she was concerned about safety and access in the building, which also houses the communication department's offices. She said that while visiting an employee at the station she noticed a letter from OSHA that mentioned a possible asbestos hazard by Todd Frobish, the interim chair of the communications department, where Ms. Dent had been teaching.
"Apparently, he later heard that I was visiting people at WFSS," she said of Frobish. "He then made a false accusation of trespassing. And he got the university lawyer to demand that I no longer enter the building. My belief is that he simply does not want me knowing about the asbestos issue since I could have been affected during the two years I worked there and also because (being a journalism professor), I know a lot of journalists.
"My question to you: Can the university prevent a member of the public from going into the offices of WFSS, which also subsists on Title III funding in addition to Corporation for Public Broadcasting money?
"The people who actually work at WFSS have no problem with me. I'm a donor as well as someone who puts in 20 to 30 hours on the phones during pledge drive."
But the view from the university is much different.
Wanda Jenkins, the university's attorney, said that Ms. Dent has been barred from the building not because she is an NPR listener but because of an altercation Ms. Dent was involved in with Mr. Frobish. According to a police report, Ms. Dent and Mr. Frobish were involved in a loud confrontation and Ms. Dent allegedly would not leave Mr. Frobish's office. She also allegedly stood in front of the door when he attempted to leave.
"It is alleged that she threatened him and falsely imprisoned him," Ms. Jenkins said. "We're doing this because she is a former employee. I have to look out for the safety of my employees. I have people to protect."
Mr. Frobish agrees that Ms. Dent was asked not to return to the building because of the incident with him. "I would assume you wouldn't want anyone to have access to the station who poses a safety hazard," he said. "That's the issue in this case."
Joseph Ross, the general manager at KFSS who has been with the station for all 34 years of its existence, said that the station has never been involved in a situation like this.
Mr. Ross said the station has never barred a listener from entering the building and the station's doors are open to the public.
"All we have in the back of my mind is that there is the public in public radio," he said. "The public taxes support the radio station. We are not going to bar anyone from coming into the station."
However, he does acknowledge the station has a problem in this case because it is the university that is prohibiting someone from entering the building, which also houses the station.
"What happens if the university decides to bar someone from our office?" asks Mr. Ross. "What do we do? We've never been in this situation before."
Police records corroborate the bad blood between Ms. Dent and Mr. Frobish. OSHA records corroborate that the agency received a complaint about asbestos though there is no indication that the university has done anything wrong.
The Communications Department at Fayetteville State University clearly has some personnel issues and the fact that WFSS is located in the same building as the communications department unfortunately means that the Frobish/Dent dispute has spilled over on to the station.