Ben McConnell remembers the very moment someone on the Oval asked him, “Dude, do you want to be a DJ?” Little did he know, that moment would lead to his becoming the president of the Amateur Radio Organization for Undergraduate Student Entertainment, leading and encouraging dozens of students to express themselves through their own live radio sessions.
The first show deejayed by McConnell, a third-year in finance, was titled “Hypnotic Kung Fu Power Hour” and featured a mixture of punk and East Coast Rap.
“I just remember being really excited to be able to do something like that at Ohio State,” McConnell said.
AROUSE began at Ohio State in 2011, and the organization now has nearly 40 disc jockeys and a stream of shows that are webcast live nearly every day from a small loft, equipped with just a computer and two microphones, above the countercultural Rendezvous Hair Salon on High Street, north of Hudson Street.
Adam DeGuire, a third-year in new media and technology and AROUSE’s technical director, said the station only had six DJs when he got involved in 2012 and it has blossomed into a club that fosters creativity.
“It’s a perfect place for free-form radio I would say because it’s the kind of atmosphere where anything goes and so it encourages our DJS to do interesting things,” he said.
Although the club doesn’t have an on-campus recording spot, group members are unfazed.
“I remember my first time going up to the studio and having to go up these spiral stairs into a space that was nothing like I expected … It may not be ideal, but we make it a fun place,” said AROUSE member David Defer, a second-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability.
AROUSE is not a well-known organization around campus, with less than 20 listeners per show. McConnell said, but he added that he couldn’t care less.
“We used to worry a lot about the student population knowing about us, but now we’re to the point where we’re not doing this for anyone else,” he said. “Our purpose is to express ourselves and have fun … Once people stop having fun, there is no point in continuing.”
McConnell has also decided against advertising AROUSE around campus, hoping that listeners will be people who are genuinely interested in listening to student voices and will find out about it on their own.
Alex Mizarek, a second-year in English, AROUSE member and co-host with Defer of the show “Fireside Chats,” shares the sentiment that producing his weekly show isn’t about showing it off to the world. “Fireside Chats” creates a new playlist every week of songs based on classic literature novels. Mizarek breaks down the themes and conflicts that run through books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and finds music that mirror them.
“We probably have about eight to 10 regular listeners, and most of them are friends and family. But we’re really just doing it for ourselves,” he said.
AROUSE’s mission statement, according to its website, is “to retain freedom of expression as a necessary function of quality entertainment, and maintain a respectful metadiscourse within an increasingly polarized world.”
“It’s not as complicated as it sounds,” McConnell said. “The goal I try to share with the members is to give an abstract perspective without attacking other opinions.”
With this goal in mind, McConnell gives his DJs complete freedom for their shows.
“I just want this group to be able to project a voice that is not influenced by a boss or an organization. I want them to have complete freedom to show, because who am I to tell them what they’re going for?” he said.
Khalid Moalim contributed to this article.