What was the ‘LION riot’ and why should I care?

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During the Fall 2001 semester at Penn State, a relationship that The LION 90.7fm had sought with the College of Communications turned rocky after representatives from the college their own curricular-focused news studio into the extracurricular student station’s sound board without proper communication or permission.

This led to an incident known locally as “The LION Riot,” which can be heard in this audio. It is a fascinating part of the history of student radio at Penn State, and an example of what can happen without formalized agreements and mutual respect in a cooperative relationship between student leadership, alumni mentors, and faculty and administration.

To describe what is happening in this audio: Faculty members of the College of Communications stormed into the radio station and berated deejays while on-air. Audio of the incident begins with DJs on air at the time—including President and General Manager Michael Walsh—trying to make smalltalk before the Comm students’ news report was scheduled to be fed into the broadcast. When the broadcast didn’t work, the DJs jokingly questioned its quality and necessity. Faculty members then broke through the airlock and began yelling at the DJs, who were still stationed at the microphones. They left their microphones on intentionally.

While one staffer explained how to patch the broadcast through, another staffer in the background continued to yell at the on-air DJs. The latter allegedly knocked into Walsh (disputably by accident or intentionally, but resulting in an audible “pop” over the microphone) prompting Walsh to ask her if she’d like to hit him. Because the incident was recorded, and because the faculty members’ actions were illegal by state and federal laws, “The LION Riot” created much controversy among students and administrators.

The LION 90.7fm still references the LION Riot from time to time, particularly the “do you want to hit me? Come on, hit me” Walsh quote, which airs regularly in audio imaging for the station. An article and partial transcript of the incident (“Dust up at WKPS”) was published by Voices of Central Pennsylvania, a local independent newspaper.