First Person

What Do You Think?

January 25th, 2018

WBRU’s Future

Brown Archives
The WBRU On-Air studio in the 1970's.

Congratulations on one of the most momentous steps WBRU has taken over its long history, from AM, to FM, to digital (“Radio Silence,” Elms, November/December). Those of us who worked at the station were stewards—nothing less or more. We did our best to evolve the station and maintain the financial health of Brown Broadcasting Systems, and then it was our turn to let go, passing the keys along to a new generation.

I have just (finally!) downloaded the app and am listening from California, and will continue to do so from home in France—a listening range that was never possible in my era.

Best of luck to the new generation of WBRU staffers! 

Doug Mayer ’87
Randolph, N.H.
The writer is a former WBRU manager.


This is my love letter to WBRU. As production director, music director, and program director, my WBRU experiences informed every moment of my Brown experience: interviewing Peter Tosh with no idea how to pronounce “apartheid”; interviewing Devo and getting only “Yes” or “No” answers; broadcasting while looking out over the Green from the third floor of Faunce House; putting on “Do You Feel Like We Do” to run down those three flights to the basement men’s room; having John Cafferty of Beaver Brown knock on the door on a Saturday night after hearing me play BRU’s 8-track cartridge  of “Tender Years”; being on the air for 13 straight hours on a Christmas Day; waiting backstage for Dire Straits and Elvis Costello at Alumnae Hall; getting armfuls of albums to take to the closet music room to listen and learn everything I could about ’60s rock ’n’ roll; “marking” new albums to rate the best songs and getting into impassioned tiffs over those ratings with others; learning the ropes of running a commercial business without University oversight. 

Anyone who put in time at WBRU has similar stories. As much as I loved those years, as much as I learned on the way to 25 years in radio management, and as much as it pained me to hear of WBRU’s broadcast death, the time was right to let it go. The broadcast industry has been slow-dance dying for many years, no longer a viable entertainment model, a viable business model, or certainly a viable career model. Fourteen years ago I sucked it up and finally made the vocational transition (I am now a teacher/administrator in Massachusetts youth corrections), and it was time for WBRU to make its own transition. Its passing is not a cause for grief, but for celebration of the joy it gave to everyone who opened a mic there.

Glenn Stewart ’79
Longmeadow, Mass.

“The decision and process of selling the 95.5 frequency were emotionally and logistically difficult for everyone, but they were necessary and were the right thing for today’s and tomorrow’s students. I was deeply disheartened by the University’s uninformed response, which included changing its mind after 51 years and ruling that WBRU’s students and board are not eligible to hold meetings in University buildings and its decision not to include WBRU in the drop-down list of activities alumni may include in their website profile.

I was even more disheartened to hear nostalgic alumni who have spent little or no time since graduation helping the station claim that their participation as students was dedicated to preserving a “generation-to-generation heritage” that today’s students are obligated to fulfill. 

I was a WBRU general manager and have served as a board member and FCC legal counsel for 50 continuous years. With the sale, we have saved and rejuvenated a struggling asset so that today’s and tomorrow’s students may continue to enjoy the learning workshop they seek and to shape it as they choose. We have sold only the FM delivery platform and not the “WBRU” name, organization, or heritage. We have taken nothing from the community at large, which can listen to alt rock WBRU, 360, and more at any time with a tap on a free smartphone app. 

Today’s students have already begun to expand their capabilities and program offerings at There is much more to come as students continue to explore and learn, which is what a Brown education is supposed to be all about.

Peter Tannenwald ’64
Chevy Chase, Md.


The November/December 2017 issue left out one bit of important information. The two-page article about WBRU  listed names of the current staff, but did not list George Abraham ’40, who started the system with his money, his time, and his technology. He should be acknowledged.

Phillip Berman ’40
Longmeadow, Mass.

Role Models

Building a Better Way” was an excellent and timely article about a role model for us all (November/December). Sangeeta Bhatia ’90 and Theresia Gouw ’90 were two years ahead of me at Brown. They led our Society of Women Engineers chapter, and I most remember their taking the time to help me and the few women in my class study for exams and organize dinners out together. Their kindness, mentoring, and example helped me to get through the difficult curriculum and the “not belonging” feeling I experienced during my four years at Brown. Thank you both!

Ann Kieron Turley ’92
Saunderstown, R.I.
Protecting Your Data
Meeting Anna Lysyanskaya and her colleagues in cybersecurity at Brown was a pleasure (“Are the Hackers Winning?” September/October). It’s heartening to know she’s pushing back against assertions that “national security” demands insecure computer data. Even before quantum computers become commonplace, I hope Brown’s research (along with others’) will produce practical solutions to the tension between tracking the bad guys and protecting our information.
Ralph Begleiter ’71
Ocean View, Del.

I was disappointed when reading your otherwise excellent article on encryption of computer data to see the simplification of the position of those of us in law enforcement who are concerned about an absolutist view of encryption. 

As with any other tool, people can use encryption for good or ill. Unfortunately, terrorists, child pornographers, and other criminals are among those using encryption, which creates something that the world has never seen before: unsearchable space. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constituion does not bar all searches; it bars “unreasonable” ones. The general test for reasonableness is whether a neutral judge has reviewed the facts and found “probable cause” to search the location for particular items. 

Encryption means that even with a properly obtained court order, the data (whether in transit or at rest) are immune from legal process. The question is whether we want unsearchable spaces for criminals to use. Most hackers go after the weakest link in the computer system—the user. They specialize in tricking the user into giving up information, such as passwords. Much of computer security will be improved when we upgrade the user to learn not to be tricked by phishing emails and other such schemes.

Michael Levy ’66
Ardmore, Pa.
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Related Issue
January/February 2018