Matt Knight fired from KHSU over ‘stick it to them’ email

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Matt Knight, host of KHSU's Alternative Therapy show since February 2000 has been fired from the station.

Knight, whose radio name is "Mad Doctor Matt," is one of the members of the station's volunteer community who have been unhappy with General Manager Peter Fretwell and Vice President for Advancement Craig Wruck since the May firing of former Operations Manager Katie Whiteside.

Knight had sent an email over the weekend to the station's engineer, Kevin Sanders, suggesting that he "discover problems that might take weeks" to fix during the transfer of the station's broadcast facility from the Theatre Arts building to Feuerwerker House. While he later retracted it and apologized, the university wasn't enthused about his contrition.

Matt Knight

In an email message to station staff (see below), Fretwell, states that "Humboldt State University has terminated Matt Knight’s privileges as a volunteer at KHSU following published reports, confirmed by Mr. Knight, that he urged a State employee to interfere with the operation of the radio station."

Continues Fretwell, "The University takes seriously all threats against the University or any of its employees. We have an obligation to preserve and protect State property including KHSU facilities. In addition, as a federally licensed broadcast facility, the University has a special obligation to ensure that KHSU protects its ability to provide broadcast services."

Knight and others allege that the university is attempting a purge of the station's longtime volunteers with the goal of "delocalizing" the station. The dissidents further object to Fretwell/Wruck's management style, casting it as remote and abusive to station personnel.

HSU officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Knight, who provided the emails below, had a number of things to say in the wake of his termination.

"Obviously I regret what I did there and I tried to take it back," Knight said. "I brought this on myself, I guess. It was 100 percent wrong, what I did."

Still, Knight sees his firing as revenge, and possibly a signal to other dissidents.

"The bottom line is, it's retribution," he said. "They're trying to make life as difficult as possible for critics."

Knight noted that he never interfered with station operations or advocated damage to station facilities.

"I didn't actually interfere with anything, nor did I suggest that they break things," he said.

He said one of his biggest regrets is drawing Sanders, who has been steadfastly apolitical through multiple stormy station controversies over the years, into the current imbroglio.

"I feel bad about putting Kevin in that position," he said. Noting that Sanders turned the message over to authorities, Knght said, "I don't blame him one bit. That's what he was supposed to do."

Knight wasn't reserved in his characterizations of Fretwell. "Just like all of his decisions, he's hiding behind the skirts of HSU," Knight said. "A man would stand up and say, 'I don't like this, get out.' But he hid behind the CAB [Community Advisory Board], Wruck and now HSU."

Knight further alleged that the seismic retrofit of the Theatre Arts building, which is forcing the station to move to new lodgings, still has no contractor nor any firm timetable. That, he suggested, casts doubt on the legitimacy of the urgent KHSU move.

Frank Whitlach, associate vice president for marketing and communications, dismissed Knight's suggestions. "I'm pretty sure that we're not spending tens of millions of dollars as a ruse to move KHSU," Whitlach said.

He said contracts were being finalized and a construction schedule firmed up. "Work could start in the next couple of weeks," he said.

Whitlach said Fretwell's rationale, as stated in the emails, needed no elaboration. "I think Peter's message speaks for itself," he said.

He said he found curious what he called the "random gender stereotyping" in Knight's negative characterization of Fretwell.

Knight said Fretwell had requested a personal meeting with him, but Knight told Fretwell that he wanted whatever he had to say in writing.

The first email to Kevin Sanders by Matt Knight

Dear Kevin:

I know you want the KHSU move to be your legacy, and I admire your dedication to the station. The plain fact is - there may not BE a station worth that legacy - once your psycho boss's is done with it. He is clearly bent on pile-driving KHSU into the ground as part of his sick revenge fantasy. Craig Wruck seems to be very much on board with this idea. These are two twisted, little men.

You may be able to stop it. They cannot make this move without you. I am not saying flat out refuse to complete the move. Even though - if you did - they could not touch you. You are beyond their reach. But if you to - say - threw out the anchor - discover problems that might take weeks - and weeks - and weeks to rectify - they would HAVE to back down. I know it's a lot to ask. But I'd would like you to think about this carefully. You are literally the only person on staff with the juice to stand up to them. They can do nothing without you.

I've always respected to your immense ability and common decency. So I am asking you - no - begging you - to use your power. It's time to stick it to them. Otherwise, they are going to get away with this, and this great radio station is going to come to a very nasty end.

Yours Very Truly,
Matt Knight

Second email to Kevin Sanders by Matt Knight
Dear Kevin:
I am sorry about the stupid email. I had absolutely no right to make that sort of request of you. You are doing your job as best you can under the circumstances, and for that, I salute you.
Best Regards,
Matt
Email sent to Matt Knight by Peter Fretwell
Subject: Volunteer status
Hello Matt,
I am sorry we could not find a way to talk in person or by phone, but I understand you are busy.
This is to provide notice that, effective immediately, your services as a volunteer for KHSU are no longer required. Under both Humboldt State University and California State University policies, volunteers may not serve without campus approval and you are advised that you should not attempt to enter KHSU or other non-public campus facilities without prior authorization.
If you have in your possession any University or State property, I expect you to make arrangements with me to return such items before the close of business on Friday, September 15, 2018. Likewise, if there are any items of your own personal property on campus or at KHSU, you can make arrangements with me to retrieve them.
Thank you for your years of service to KHSU and the community. I wish you well as you continue to serve the community in your local media work.
Sincerely,
Peter
Peter Fretwell
Member and General Manager
KHSU/Humboldt State University
Email sent to KHSU staff via the station listserv
Subject: [khsu-allstaff] HSU notice
Notice to KHSU volunteers
Humboldt State University has terminated Matt Knight’s privileges as a volunteer at KHSU following published reports, confirmed by Mr. Knight, that he urged a State employee to interfere with the operation of the radio station. The University has taken this action pursuant to Humboldt State University and California State University policies, which require volunteers to obtain campus approval before providing their services.
Effective immediately, Mr. Knight is prohibited from entering KHSU or other non-public campus facilities. KHSU staff and volunteers are directed to inform station management immediately if he attempts to do so. The University is working with Mr. Knight to ensure he is able to return any state property, or to retrieve personal property.
The University takes seriously all threats against the University or any of its employees. We have an obligation to preserve and protect State property including KHSU facilities. In addition, as a federally licensed broadcast facility, the University has a special obligation to ensure that KHSU protects its ability to provide broadcast services.
Thank you,
Peter
Peter Fretwell
Member and General Manager
KHSU/Humboldt State University

 






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