Allen is a second-semester disc jockey for WXYC, UNC’s student-run radio station. He works every Sunday from midnight to 3 a.m. Alone in the equipment-filled room with 70,000 records lining the walls, Allen has had to entertain listeners in the early hours of the morning since his first semester, a ritual all new DJs have to go through.
“When you’re a freshman you have to do graveyard shifts when you feel like nobody’s awake,” Allen said. “It ruins your sleep schedule.”
New DJs have to work for three-hour shifts between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m., while second-semester DJs often work midnight to 3 a.m. From their first session on air, they’re left on their own to play a set.
“It was crazy but awesome,” Allen said. “Sometimes it’s harder at 3 to 6 in the morning when you want to avoid yawning on the radio, but you’re really tired.”
Junior DJ Lorraine Besse, a French exchange student, had the 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift every Tuesday in the fall. It took her a month to adapt to the sleep rhythm.
“I try to sleep a little bit before and after, but it feels like you’ve been awake two days in a row,” she said. “I had a class at 8 a.m. so I would finish at 6 a.m., go back to sleep and then go to class.”
A P2P bus route map is pinned on the notice board in the station, reflecting the concern for DJs like Besse who have to walk home at night.
“It’s scary at first, walking around in the quiet campus, but the station is safe and we have a code to open the door,” Besse said. “It’s actually really peaceful.”