A growing number of campus radio clubs and student radio amateurs have begun to share ideas and suggestions on the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) Facebook page, which is aimed at sparking renewed participation, activity, and idea-sharing among this special sector of the Amateur Radio community. The now-expanded initiative stemmed from two well-attended ARRL New England Division Convention forums for radio amateurs attending college, one hosted by the Amateur Radio clubs at Harvard (W1AF) and Yale (W1YU). As the forum explained, the activity level at campus Amateur Radio club stations can vary wildly from one year to the next, as students graduate and newcomers arrive.
“The most common difficulty stems from uneven interest over time,” said ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, in his “Second Century” editorial, “Cheers for College Amateur Radio: Sis-boom-bah!” in December 2016 QST. “Even the strongest leaders in college Amateur Radio graduate every 4 years, sometimes leaving their clubs without adequate continuity or leadership succession.”
Gallagher pointed out that “recognized” student activities require students in order to maintain that status. However, even officially recognized college club stations may find themselves at the mercy of administrations in terms of space for a station and antennas, and some clubs have had to move more than once to accommodate their schools’ space requirements. Issues involving safety and security can also affect college radio clubs.
In a recent post, Kenny Hite, KE8CTL, a graduate teaching assistant at West Virginia University, said the university’s Amateur Radio club, W8CUL, has been unable to participate in recent on-the-air events “due to lack of working equipment and questionable antenna setups,” as he put it. “We are working to identify working equipment/coax lines.” Another poster, Dennis Silage, K3DS, who’s associated with the Temple University Amateur Radio Club (K3TU), said, “A key to a successful and long-running college club seems to be faculty involvement for stability and recognition.” He invited other CARI participants to check out the club’s website to see what members have been doing.
“It occurred to us that, if college Amateur Radio could galvanize [mutual interests], then colleges might just provide the ideal bridge between youthful interest in the subject and lifelong participation in our community,” Gallagher wrote.
Some ideas are already being suggested, and the Facebook page has spurred communication among an ever-widening network of those involved or interested in Amateur Radio on campus, from students, faculty members, and administrators to college radio club alums. One suggestion has been to harness the competitive nature of colleges to organize operating events — perhaps with “conferences” resembling those for sports — to keep interest alive.
ARRL received permission to rebrand the Collegiate Amateur Radio Operators Facebook group, initially organized by Sam Rose, KC2LRC, as the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative. All collegiate radio amateurs, clubs, and alumni are invited to participate and to get involved in activities that advance the art and enjoyment of Amateur Radio. All suggestions are welcome.