Alexandria Sands

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Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Sands' work has been published in The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book on Oak Island. Reach her at community@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.

This UNC Charlotte professor may have lost the race for Bosnian presidency, but he still wants to “be a spark of change” for the nation.

Before Mirsad Hadzikadic left UNC Charlotte to campaign across the globe for his home country’s presidency, he said that, regardless if he won or lost, he hoped to change mindsets.

Fast forward to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Election Day on Oct. 7, the computer science professor was with his group of campaign volunteers when the central electoral commission accidentally released votes early. Over the past five months, the independent candidate was relatively unknown, significantly underfunded and up against popular politicians with deep pockets, but now he was ahead of the competition.

“Whether it was a sign of how much [votes were] stolen or something, I don’t really know, but that gave them hope,” he said Monday at a public discussion in UNC Charlotte’s Center City building.

As the evening went on, however, it became apparent he would not win. His team was crushed.

But the next day, Oct. 7, they awoke to newspapers and analyst talking about the 50,000 votes Hadzikadic had received as an “incredible story.” He finished in fourth place with 9.5% of the vote in the six-person race.

On the third day, Oct. 8, he says it was “euphoria.”

“Wow, look at this,” he said, describing the moment. “We’ve done this. We are changing Bosnia. So, what do we do now?”

Getting in on the run

Hadzikadic left his Yugoslavia home in 1984 at 29-years-old to come to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar at Southern Methodist University. He has spent more than three decades at UNC Charlotte, working his way up to executive director of the university’s Data Science Initiative.

But when a friend called him last fall from Bosnia and Herzegovina to propose he run for president, Hadzikadic felt an overwhelming sense of duty. Despite concerns about his safety, the burden it would put on his family and the pay cut he’d take if he won, Hadzikadic went through with it.

The Guardian referred to Bosnia and Herzegovina as “home to what is most probably the world’s most complicated system of government.” A peace agreement after the Bosnian War included plans for how the country would run. Three presidents — one Bosniak, one Croat and one Serb — rotate out as chairman every eight months over a four-year term.

Following the war, which ended in 1995, the country became divided along social, religious and cultural lines. Hadzikadic predicts nationalists will be successful in efforts to separate the country within seven to 10.

“That was [my friend’s] fear: if we let the nationalists win this election, they will drive the country into the ruins,” Hadzikadic told the Niner Times in April.

The plan

Hadzikadic ran his campaign on three focuses: “Bosnia First,” economy and youth.

His overall goal was to end national policies that distinguish people as Croats and Serbs and instead view citizens as “Bosnians who live in Bosnia” before anything else. “Bosnia First” stresses people to think of the country as a whole rather than what would benefit one’s party or own well being.

“Think about the country first,” he said. “Like John Kennedy, right? ‘Ask not.'”

His plan to boost the economy included enforcing laws, getting investments from overseas and creating tax incentives for new companies.

His third focus was reflected in his campaign team; every member was under the age of 40. Hadzikadic says 70,000 Bosnians have left the country since the beginning of the year, most to Germany, due to a lack of jobs and the overall state of the country. He said his campaign made an impact on the youth more than any other population.

Two days before the election, he was walking to a meeting at Hotel Europe when he was stopped by a young man on the street. The man thanked Hadzikadic for bringing hope to the youth. When Hadzikadic asked for his name and what he did, the young man responded that he was in musical academy.

“I said, ‘What are you going to do when you’re done?'” Hadzikadic recalls. “Then he turned to me and he said, ‘Well that, Mr. President,’ he said, ‘that depends on you.'”

First on the agenda

However, what Hadzikadic would have done first has little to do with his three-part plan.

It became first on the agenda for him when he spent three days participating in the country’s Peace March, an annual event in July that commemorates victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide by hiking the way people took to escape Serb persecution. It concludes on the third day with a mass funeral to bury remains that have been found in the past year.

On his hike, Hadzikadic stayed at the homes of volunteer hosts. On night one, he entered a couple’s house. As he sat waiting for the husband to prepare a cup of tea, the wife put her hand on Hadzikadic’s knee. “Did you see the creek by the house? It saved our lives,” she said, going on to explain how they hid while their neighbors were raped for days and had their necks slit. Ten minutes later, she asked again, “Did you see the creek by the house?”

And again. And again.

“She lives through it every 10, 15, 20 minutes,” Hadzikadic said. “Cannot create new memories to erase the old ones.”

He met other people throughout the journey who had lost multiple family members, so when he attended the mass funeral, it struck him that politicians entered the first 20 rows for prayer while the people who lost loved ones stood in the hills. He decided then the first order he’d make as member of presidency would be not allowing politicians to enter the first 20 rows of prayers for the mass funeral.

“It would do nothing for the country, but it would raise hopes of so many people,” he said. “It’s time for a different value system.”

Unknown and underfunded

Hadzikadic had trustworthiness behind him, but money became an obstacle. Without the funds for a professional campaign manager, he relied on volunteers.

“We realize at some point that it is all about money,” he said. “In the end, you have no money, you cannot get to people.”

Few citizens knew him due to a lack of exposure. In addition to not being able to afford TV time, Bosnian public service media are owned by parties who blocked him from the channels.

Then, one day someone told him what he had to do: “Shock the nation,” so people would talk about him “whether they like it or not.”

The opportunity came at two candidate debates. During one, he was put up against two of his opponents (three did not show up) and they were all asked if they believed in same-sex marriage.

“In Bosnia, that’s a death sentence,” he said at Monday’s lecture.

The first candidate answered no. The second also said no. Then, when they got to Hadzikadic, he answered yes. His response dominated media coverage for weeks to come.

At another debate, the 15 candidates were divided depending on whether they were considered a major or lesser contender. Put into the lesser category, Hadzikadic disagreed with the message it sent to the public, that these were the opponents they shouldn’t bother to vote for.

So when he was asked to introduce himself as a first question, Hadzikadic used his 60 seconds to explain why he disagreed with that system. Then, even as he was being cut off, he used 20 more. At 80 seconds, he walked out.

“They call now, in Bosnia, ’80 seconds that changed the politics,'” he said.

“Scandal in the studio” ran as a headline.

What’s next

Despite his efforts though, he was beat in the Bosnian position by a nationalist. A nationalist also won the Serb seat. The third presidential council seat went to a moderate Croat.

But Hadzikadic is not letting the loss be the end. It’s been less than a month since Election Day and he already has an answer to the question “What’s next?”

A movement for political cohesiveness.

People can register online to become members of the movements, also called “Sparks,” a play on his campaign slogan, “Be a spark of change.” During his campaign, people would message him saying, “I’m a spark, too.” When someone registers, they receive an email telling them which number “Spark” they are.

As of Monday, there were over two thousand people signed up to be “Sparks” of change.

“Finally I have a cause or something I believe in deeply that I want to think about it 24 hours a day, which is how to improve the lives of people, society,” he said.

Before Hadzikadic left Charlotte for Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said that, regardless of if he won or lost, he hoped to change mindsets.

And regardless that he lost, he is doing just that.

“White Consciousness” event receives mixed reactions

UNC Charlotte’s Office of Identity, Equity, and Engagement is hosting “White Consciousness Conversations,” aimed to help students and staff with “understanding” their whiteness, and it’s confusing some people.

An original post on the campus events website said the spaces were “for white people.” That post was taken down and reposted days later with updated language clarifying the events do not exclude other races. The current post says the spaces are for “all undergraduate and graduate students.”

The group-based events will explore how racism is “perpetuated individually, culturally and systemically,” according to the website.

“We expect a diverse group of participants to converse about topics, including the reality of racism and discrimination in the lives of individuals of color,” said Stephen Ward, a UNC Charlotte spokesperson.

Still, some students disagree with the university hosting the events.


“What possessed y’all to create this? This is a clear and evident slap in the faces of your students of color and different nationalities,” one student tweeted.

Timothy Wayne Collie, a 1996 alumnus, said he gave $1,200 last week to the school’s donation campaign Niner Nation Gives. Then, he was disappointed to see the University putting on the event.

“I passionately disagree with the term ‘white privilege’ universities today are using far too easily,” he said.

Collie describes himself as a first-generation college student from a “rural” family. “A large part of our 130,000 alumni come from white, rural, financially-challenged communities,” he added.

Some students are backing up the event. Cody Derce, a senior, said it’s a relevant program on campus. Last September, a photo of a “colored” sign hung above a UNC Charlotte water fountain circulated on social media.

“I think it’s important to bring awareness to white privilege and discuss how it can be utilized for good,” he said. “In a lot of cases, people don’t realize when their privilege is used because most of today’s oppression is implicit.”

Earlier this month, University of Maryland received backlash after promoting a group as a “safe space for white students.” It was later changed to “Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group.”

The “White Consciousness Conversations” are just one of the events regarding “important and timely issues” the University is hosting, Ward said. There will also be “Women of Color Conversations” throughout the semester.

The White Consciousness Conversations for students will be held Oct. 25 and Nov. 29 at 9 a.m. in Room 261 of the Student Union.

Student Government to conduct investigation of Jerry Richardson Stadium name concerns

A plaque outside the UNC Charlotte football stadium honors Jerry Richardson. Photo by Nikolai Mather.

The UNC Charlotte Student Government Association scrapped a controversial resolution that would have challenged the Board of Trustees decision to keep Jerry Richardson’s name on the football stadium and, instead, will conduct an investigation of student concerns.

The Stadium Inquiry Act calls for SGA to survey the student population on the issue and then, depending on the results, move forward with a message to the board.

Allegations of racial slurs and sexual misconduct surfaced against the former Carolina Panthers owner in December. Following an investigation by the NFL which resulted in a $2.75 million fine, UNC Charlotte officials announced in August the Board of Trustees had unanimously decided to honor the naming rights agreement.

Richardson is in an agreement with the university to pay annual increments of $1 million from 2013, when the team was established, until 2022. In return, the stadium reps his name.

At the last Senate meeting on Aug. 30, senators read a resolution which, if passed, would have publicly stated the organization was against the board’s decision. That bill was cut from the agenda. Instead, the Student Inquiry Act passed with a stipulation to change a word in the text from “petition” to “poll.” SGA will begin the process of surveying students, which Matthew Basel, the bill’s sponsor, said will not be an “overnight process.”

“This is a very neutral bill,” said Basel. “It’s not suggesting that we are condoning Jerry Richardson or anything like that. It’s simply stating that we want to look into it ourselves.”

 

The resolution reads of a “state of sensitivity” and provides examples of the protests against UNC Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam and a Duke University building named for Julian Carr, who was a white supremacist.

In a room filled with cameras and reporters, Niayai Lavien opened the Senate meeting with a statement regarding the board’s closed session in which they reached their consensus. As student body president, she serves as the sole student on the 13-member board.

“A variety of viewpoints were expressed in the meeting,” she said. “In the end, the Board of Trustees believe that it was in the best interest of the university, including the student body, to maintain the naming agreement.”

A school policy states if an individual for whom a facility is named engages in conduct injurious to the reputation of the university, the name may be removed without legal consequences; However, that policy, formed in 2016, predates the 2013 naming agreement with Richardson.

According to the Sports Illustrated report which revealed details of Richardson’s allegations, at least four former Panthers employees received financial settlements for their silence. It describes “Jean Day” on Fridays when Richardson would ask female employees to turn around so he could admire and make comments. He was also said to have used racial slurs against an African-American scout.

Following the allegations, Richardson announced plans to sell the team. David Tepper bought it in July for $2.275 billion.

The majority of Richardson’s fine will be donated to organizations that address race and gender-based issues.

UNC Charlotte community debates on social media Jerry Richardson Stadium name

Jerry Richardson Stadium. NT File Photo.

The UNC Charlotte Student Senate, which acts as the representatives of the student body, will consider passing a resolution Thursday that would push back on the Board of Trustees decision to keep Jerry Richardson’s name on the football stadium.

Questions of whether the former Carolina Panthers owner’s name would remain have been up in the air since December when allegations of racial slurs and sexual misconduct against Richardson surfaced. In August, UNC Charlotte officials announced the Board of Trustees had unanimously decided to honor the naming rights agreement in a private teleconference.

Students, alumni and fans have taken to social media to voice their opinions. Here’s what they’re saying.


Student Government to vote on resolution regarding decision to keep Jerry Richardson name on stadium

Jerry Richardson Stadium on UNC Charlotte campus. Photo by Chris Crews.

The UNC Charlotte Student Senate, which acts as the representatives of the student body, is weighing whether to push back on the Board of Trustees decision to keep Jerry Richardson’s name on the university’s football stadium.

Questions of whether the former Carolina Panthers owner’s name would remain have been up in the air since December, when allegations of racial slurs and sexual misconduct against Richardson surfaced. Following the announcement of Richardson’s $2.75 million fine by the NFL in June, UNC Charlotte officials announced in August the Board of Trustees had unanimously decided to honor the naming rights agreement.

Richardson agreed to donate $10 million to the university in return for his name on the $40 million stadium. He’s paying that in annual increments of $1 million from 2013, when the team was established, until 2022.

At its Thursday meeting, the Student Senate read a resolution which would publicly state the organization is against the board’s decision if passed. The bill will be reread and voted on at the next meeting this Thursday. It would ask the board to reconsider its decision as well as request public and open meetings be held on the issue.

Trustees reached their consensus during a closed session teleconference with its 13-members, including one student, Niayai Lavien, the student body president.

“We discussed all our options and at the end of the day, we picked the best decision that we feel like was in the best interest of the university,” Lavien said at the Senate meeting.

Kyra Durham, a senator who works in Admissions, said Niner Guides are not using Jerry Richardson’s name when referring to the stadium during campus tours.

“We don’t support the fact that he did what he did,” she added.

A school policy reads if an “individual for whom a facility is named in conduct that is injurious to the reputation of the university,” the name may be removed.

Also on the public’s mind was whether the 13-foot statue of Richardson would stay outside the Bank of America Stadium entrance. David Tepper, the new Carolina Panthers owner, says his purchase agreement included a requirement the statue not be moved.

At least four former Panthers employees received financial settlements for their silence, according to a Sports Illustrated report that revealed details of the allegations. It describes “Jean Day” on Fridays when Richardson would ask female employees to turn around so he could admire and make comments. He was also said to have used racial slurs against an African-American scout.

Following the allegations, Richardson announced plans to sell the team. Tepper bought it in July for $2.275 billion.

An NFL statement said the investigation found “no information” that would “discredit the claims made or that would undermine the veracity of the employees who made those claims.”

The majority of Richardson’s fine will be donated to organizations that address race and gender-based issues.

Campus construction update: New halls, more parking and other projects


Photos by Alexandria Sands.

Construction on several large, multi-million dollar projects ramped up over the summer at UNC Charlotte. Here are the new, ongoing and complete construction projects students can expect to see upon their return to campus this fall.

Health and Wellness Center will stay under construction throughout the year

A $66 million Health and Wellness Center began construction over the summer next to the Popp Martin Student Union. The 160,000-square-foot facility will include aerobic and weight training rooms, group fitness areas, courts, a pool and offices for intramural and recreational programs. The facility has been controversial among students, many of whom say the facility is unnecessary with two gyms already on campus, however, university officials say the building addresses a “current shortage of student health and wellness space.” The building is scheduled to be complete in July.

Belk Plaza offers a new hangout spot on campus

The $2 million revitalization of Belk Plaza began construction in the spring and continued over the summer. The project replaces Belk Tower, which was torn down in 2015 due to structural problems. The area will feature a “great lawn,” performance stage and a double-sided foundation once complete, which should be in the coming month.

Admissions and Visitors Center will ease tours

At the front of campus, tennis courts have been replaced with the construction of an $8 million Admissions and Visitors Center. The building will make it so potential new students and their parents find the building quickly rather than traveling to the inner core of campus for tours. That project will be complete in February.

Students move into a new Scott Hall

Students move into a new Scott Hall this fall after renovations completed this summer on the 49-year-old building. The project was originally authorized $2.25 million in late 2015, but surpassed that at a cost of $21.9 million. Renovations included new study spaces, increased privacy in bathrooms and a brick exterior to match the rest of South Village, as well as updates to mechanical, electrical, information technology and plumbing systems.

Moore and Sanford to be torn down, replaced

Moore and Sanford halls were planned to be renovated like Scott, but university officials announced a change of plans in January, saying it would be more cost effective to tear down and replace the buildings. Moore Hall residents will be relocated at the end of the fall semester so that the tower can be demolished. Sanford Hall will follow at the end of the spring semester. The two towers will be replaced with a single $58.5 million residence hall to be designed by the same company as Levine Hall. The building, which will house somewhere between 750 and 800 students, is expected to be complete by September 2020.

Union Deck expansion adds more parking

Parking near the Student Union was increasingly difficult last year when Lot 18 closed to make way for two major construction projects, one of which was the $14 million Union Deck expansion. The expansion, which wraps up this month, is adding 570 highly-requested parking spaces to the structure’s west end. It will both add new spots and make up for lost ones due to the Health and Wellness Center.

$101M science building to break ground next month

Ground breaks on a $101 million science building in September. The facility will house instructional classrooms and research labs. Project completion is expected to be in November 2020, with an anticipated occupancy date of late 2020. Its being built on the corner of Mary Alexander and Craver Roads where the Parking and Transportation Services and Facilities Operations offices are. Those operations will relocate in September to a new, shared building next door to the light rail terminal and North Deck.

SURVIVAL GUIDE: Light rail 101

Congratulations! You picked UNC Charlotte as your school, which means you are enrolled at one of the few universities in the country with a train on campus. With just your student ID, you have the power to travel to some the best parts of Charlotte — NoDa, Uptown and South End — without ever getting in a car. The light rail may seem intimidating at first, but follow these steps and you’ll be riding like a pro by the second week of classes.

Don’t forget your student ID. 

Your ID will get you on and off the light rail with no problems. Students pay $25 per semester as part of their tuition for an all-access pass on light rail, trolley and the majority of Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) transit. When conductors ask to see your ticket, you will show them your ID.

Occasionally you won’t be asked for a ticket during your ride, however, you don’t want to be caught empty-handed when they do. If you’re bringing non-students, make sure they pay at the kiosks for the $2.20 one-way or $4.40 round-trip ticket.

Download the Charlotte light rail app.

The Charlotte light rail app lets you know when the train is arriving and departing from its 26 stations. During the day, the light rail stops on campus every eight minutes. This app becomes more useful at night when the light rail only makes stops every 20 or so minutes. Make sure you hop on before the service stops around 1:50 p.m. to avoid an expensive Uber ride.

Tip: The UNC Charlotte Next Ride app lets you track on-campus buses that can take you to the station from different parts of campus.

Know where to go. Here are the Niner Times recommendations.

Food Truck Friday

Station: East/West Boulevard

Every Friday, food trucks line up in Sycamore Brewing’s lot from 5-10 p.m. The event has outdoor seating and live music. Trucks vary depending on the night, but some of the regulars include the grilled cheese truck Papi Queso, taco truck Tin Kitchen and Gyro Twins.

Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center

Station: Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC)/Arena

NBA season starts up again in October, not too long after school starts. Charlotte Hornet’s games at the Spectrum Center are an affordable way to show some Queen City spirit. Plus, with the light rail, you don’t even have to pay for parking. In years past, they’ve sold tickets to college students for $10 if they were bought at the ticket both within the 90 minutes before the game. Their college rush deal for this year is TBA.

Find a new study spot (other than Atkins)

Station: 25th Street or CTC/Arena

If you’re tired of the Atkins Library scenery, there are some amazing coffee shops along the light rail to study at. Get off at 25th Street and walk over to Amélie’s French Bakery. This 24/7 café is perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee and pastry at one of their many tables. If you’re planning on making it an all-day study sash, they also serve sandwiches, soups and salads.

A little further down the line, hop off at CTC/Arena Station and walk over to Coco and the Director to enjoy an atmosphere that encourages you to spend hours there cranking out work — either at a table or on the stadium-style seats with pillows and bean bags. If you get tired of laptops and textbooks, there’s board games and books for customers to enjoy.

Be on the lookout for upcoming events

Always be looking out for festivals, concerts and other upcoming events. Last semester, when light rail was first operating, students rode to the St. Patrick’s Day festival, March for Our Lives, NCAA basketball tournaments and 49er baseball games in Uptown at the BB&T Ballpark.

Here are some free upcoming festivals to put on your calendar:

Charlotte Pride Fest in Uptown – Aug. 18-19

Station: CTC/Arena

Yiasou Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral – Sept. 6-9

Station: East/West Boulevard

Freedom in the Park Music and Arts Festival at Freedom Park – Sept. 22-24

Station: East/West Boulevard and take a shuttle to the festival for $2 per rider

Hola Charlotte Festival in Uptown – Oct. 6

Station: 7th Street

SURVIVAL GUIDE: Where to eat when eating off campus

Price’s Chicken Coop. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

On-campus eating is not half bad. SoVi is actually pretty great. We have Chick-fil-A, Bojangles’ and my personal favorite, Panda Express. But there are days when you want to venture off campus just for fun. In that case, check out these two options.

Option 1: Cheap, close and good

These are the local spots “where all the college kids go” because they’re cheap and sometimes have student specials.

Monterrey Mexican Restaurant

Located behind the Harris Teeter on University City Blvd, Monterrey is your typical Mexican restaurant, but it’s consistently good and you get a sit-down meal for roughly $10 plus tip. Gather with a group of friends — maybe your new roommates — and chat over a bowl of chips and salsa. Most students go for the $9.99 Special 49ers ACP, an entree featuring grilled chicken over Mexican rice covered in queso.

Kabuto Japanese Steak House

Also behind Harris Teeter, Kabuto is the spot on Wednesday and Thursdays for their half-off sushi. You’ll get more sushi for your buck than what you’d pay at a grocery store. A half-off roll is around $3-4, so most people order two or three.

Macado’s

Macado’s has specials all week long, but the most popular is the 39 cent wings. This college student dream goes on Thursdays from 4-9 p.m. and Sunday from 1-7 p.m. If you aren’t a wing fan, then you have the comfort of knowing the lengthy menu also has reasonable prices on wraps, sandwiches, quesadillas and pasta dishes.

Boardwalk Billy’s

Light rail stop: J.W. Clay Boulevard/UNC Charlotte

Boardwalk Billy’s is perfect if you’re looking to make dinner a night-long event. Go here and order a burger, wings or seafood. Though, the best part about this place is its location. Right outside is a boardwalk and pond where you can rent paddles boats. Then, stroll on over to Ninety’s Ice Cream next door and get one of their instagramable deserts: cereal milkshakes, cookie dough pops and yum-ee buns (Chinese sweet buns stuffed with ice cream and coated with toppings). It’s a date.

Option 2: Charlotte’s best

If you want to venture outside university city — which is easy now, thanks to light rail — go for Option 2: all the great food Charlotte has to offer. The Queen City has some of the best food in the state. Just ask Guy Fieri; He’s a regular.

Cabo Fish Taco

Light rail stop: 36th Street (NoDa)

This is the first place that pops in my mind when people visit from out of town and want to grab a bite. Cabo Fish Taco never disappoints. The go-to meal is two tacos with a side (I recommend the spicy avocado salad). Plus, these aren’t your ordinary tacos; They’re barbecue Mahi, lemon grilled shrimp and honey soy glazed salmon. Chips and corn salsa come soon after you sit down. Also, this place is in the heart of the arts district known as NoDa, so you can admire the mural-filled walls on your walk to the restaurant.

Price’s Chicken Coop

Light rail stop: East/West Boulevard

Price’s Chicken Coop is a Charlotte icon known for serving up the best fried chicken in the state since 1962. This cash-only spot has no customer seating, so finding a spot to eat is your job. I picnicked at a nearby park I found on Apple Maps, but you’ll see people eating off the hood of their cars in the parking lot. Fried chicken meals are served with coleslaw, hushpuppies, french fries and a roll.

Midwood Smokehouse

When Barack Obama visited the Queen City in 2016, he told the crowd he loved North Carolina for its food. “In fact, I will find someplace to stop and get some food before I head back to D.C,” he said. He ended up at Midwood Smokehouse in Plaza Midwood with Hillary Clinton for some barbecue. This restaurant pulls inspiration from all across the south, from Texas to the Carolinas.

Vapiano

Light rail stop: Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station

This place isn’t exclusive to North Carolina, but there’s only a few in the world. If you’re exploring Uptown and want to grab an affordable Italian lunch, this is your spot. They do things slightly different here; You order your meal at a station depending on what you’re ordering (pasta, pizza, etc.) and swipe a card you get when you first enter. Then, the chef creates your dish in front of you. You take it to a seat (I like to sit outside so I can people watch in the city) and at the end of your meal, you hand the hostess your card and pay. Don’t forget to grab a cupful of free gummy bears on your way out.

Student killed after falling from party bus

Polly Miranda Rogers, a 20-year-old student, was killed Tuesday night after falling from a party bus window and then being hit by two vehicles, according to Charlotte Observer and WSOC.

The Charlotte Party Charters bus was on North Tryon Street near the intersection of Sugar Creek Road when the incident occurred at around 10:25 p.m. She fell out of the emergency window on the right side of the bus, which was driving in the left lane, and landed in the center of the street.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rogers was studying special education and was a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha, where she served as new member assistant and as a member of the signs chair and recruitment committee. She was originally from Charlotte.

“Polly was the friendliest person you would ever meet in your life,” said chapter president Alexis Marie Burns in a statement put out by the sorority. “She could always be found in the common areas of the house greeting sisters after their day at classes and making sure their day was going great.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with memorial costs. $10,000 was raised within three hours, surpassing the $7,000 goal.

Three fraternities suspended after investigations

Greek Village. NT File Photo.

Universities across the nation have been cracking down on hazing after severe cases received national attention.

The nationwide issue has taken a toll on UNC Charlotte’s Interfraternity Council (IFC). Only 119 students signed up for IFC recruitment.

“I’ve been here for four years and that is the lowest it’s ever been,” Greg Rush, Phi Delta Theta vice president, told Niner Times in March. “I think it’s a combination of rush being pushed back and the bad publicity that IFC fraternities have gotten over the years.”

Recruitment was delayed two weeks so an “expert consultant” could work with each chapter.

“I think we’re all concerned about [the national issues] and you want to make sure that on your campus you don’t have the similar kinds of behaviors that cause those issues,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois during a Student Government Association meeting earlier this semester. “We would never discipline the Greek system as a whole based on what happened on other campuses. We choose to respond to specific examples of misbehavior by a Greek organization, which as you know, there’s a process for that.”

And a process there is. Three fraternities were suspended throughout the academic year: Delta Chi, Phi Sigma Kappa and Lambda Chi Alpha.

Here’s what they did.

Jiggling the balls

Quizzes and physical activity are a common combination of hazing. Delta Chi took it a step farther. According to an investigation by the Office of Student Conduct, a witness told investigators that while doing wall sits as a punishment for incorrect answers, pledges were instructed to extend their arms and wiggle their fingers in front of a brother’s crotch as a way to imitate “jiggling the balls.” The witness clarified; however, they never actually touched.

According to other reports, this event was in a dark room with just one lit red bulb and metal music blaring. The pledges wore white T-shirts which brothers wrote “pledge” and their numbers on in black marker. During these events, pledges were brought in one by one as a form of intimidation and were told to shotgun and chug beers and take Jell-O shots while doing their assigned exercise. One pledge told investigators he would have stopped drinking, but he was supposed to follow instructions.

Brothers also “iced” a group of pledges with a cooler of Smirnoff.

At an event called “Match Night,” pledges held matches at an angle and attempted to recite the Greek alphabet before the fire reached their fingers.

One witness said his fingernail melted into his skin, but it was still “fun.” In addition, one witness said he thought everyone was at least burned or singed.

In the report, investigators wrote of a designated “zucchini brother” who was forced to carry a zucchini at all times. However, it is unclear how long he had the zucchini.

“These actions by chapter members go against our expectations of membership and do not align with the Oath of Delta Chi,” said Delta Chi CEO Keith R. Shriver. “We will not tolerate such violations of laws, policies, and principles. The fraternity will work with local alumni, university officials and student leaders to reestablish a membership of values-based men at UNC Charlotte in the future. We are grateful for our strong partnership with UNCC, and we appreciate the university’s continuing support.”

Delta Chi was charged with hazing, providing alcohol to minors and acts of harm in the form of physical injury and fear/risk on Nov. 14. Their suspension ends Aug. 11, 2021.

The mystery of the U-Haul

Investigators heard inconsistent stories from brothers and pledges about what happened on Phi Sigma Kappa’s bid night involving the rental of a U-Haul. This led investigators to believe the men were being dishonest.

It would be a simple explanation that the rental was for removing fraternity letters, however, multiple witnesses said the fraternity moves letters themselves. In addition, the letters were supposed to be removed 10 minutes after the U-Haul was rented, which would not have allowed enough time for the letters to be removed by deadline, the investigative summary stated. One witness said it was used to move items for Cigar Night, an event held prior to the rental.

Investigators were suspicious when a witness stated blindfolds were used in the new member process.

“Being blindfolded and placed in the back of a U-Haul would cause fear,” reads the investigative summary. “Additionally, there is the risk of injury with individuals being transported in the back of a U-Haul.”

One witness said a new member was sent to the hospital for drinking, which was described as “excessive” during bid night.

Phi Sigma Kappa was suspended on April 3 and charged with hazing, providing alcohol to minors and acts of harm in the form of physical injury and fear/risk.

They will be allowed to return to campus Dec. 17, 2020.

Phi Sigma Kappa did not reply to the Niner Times’ request for comment.

Witness 54

A witness of Lambda Chi Alpha’s investigation claimed the fraternity would “haze the shit out of you.” Considering they have the longest report of the three suspended fraternities, this may be true.

According to an investigative summary, pledges were punished for incorrect quiz answers with drink and food concoctions made out of eggs, pickle juice, hot sauce, spices, mayo, tuna, oatmeal, chicken soup and mustard. Some witnesses mentioned tasting beer and vodka as well.

“People were throwing up left and right,” a witness said.

They also used physical activity to haze, including the dehumanizing task of following a laser pointer.

One witness claims he told Witness 54, who held the event at his house, to “shut it down and send the boys home,” but Witness 54 did not comply. Two witnesses said they became physically ill by looking at the hazing. One pledge had an asthma attack in the process.

Witness 54 claims he was “crushing beers” in the garage, but never provided alcohol to any of pledges. Multiple witnesses said otherwise.

Similar activities occurred at Millennium One and Kirk Farm Field on Mallard Creek Church Road in the middle of the night. The events at the field ended abruptly when a car pulled up and “spooked the brothers” and Witness 54 told the boys they only got one-third of the hazing they were supposed to get.

At a can structure event, pledges were told to chug warm or hot beer and then build a structure.

“Witness 37 stated, ‘If they’re smart, they’ll vomit,’” reads the investigative summary. “Witness 45 shared it ‘got out of hand’ with a ‘lot more screaming this year.’”

Pledges also had to clean brothers’ houses and apartments as regulated by Witness 54, provide rides, buy brothers multiple items and search for keys — that did not actually exist — with their fellow pledges.

They also had the task of recording a weekly “Bad Ass Pledge” tape and submitting it via flash drive to Witness 54. Pledges created a “Today Show” theme with a weather report by a new member wearing no pants, a porn report in which two pledges showed pictures of porn and rated porn stars, a corn report in which raw corn was consumed, a rap video, a Panther’s report and other content.

They also made “Pick Me” videos to impress brothers and raise their status in the fraternity. The videos showed them shotgunning a beer in front of their mother, jumping into ponds, proposing to random strangers, blowing up objects, smoking in the library, running from security and other similar content.

The investigation mentioned rumors of a family within the fraternity called the “Bloodbath,” who could not be initiated until they performed oral sex on a woman on her period. Although many claimed this was just a rumor, one witness confirmed, saying it must be filmed and submitted. A different witness said there is no filming involved. Other families include the “El Cartel,” who must consume jalapeños, and the “Grimy,” who eats food concoctions at Golden Corral.

Lambda Chi Alpha’s suspension runs through Jan. 29, 2018 to Aug. 14, 2023. They were charged with hazing, disruption of normal university activities, providing alcohol to minors, acts of harm in the form of physical injury and fear/risk, and failure to comply for holding unapproved events and emergency meetings.

Director of Communications at Lambda Chi Alpha Tad Lichtenauer said, “We have a zero-tolerance policy in regard to hazing.” He said the fraternity had no comment on specific allegations.

They also faced charges for fabricating stories, which was obvious to investigators when answers were “word for word,” such as stating Witness 54 is a “really professional guy.”

They later apologized for being dishonest.

Year in review

Exam week is right around the corner and another year at UNC Charlotte is coming to a close. Take a break from studying to look back at the top stories of the 2017-18 year.

A light rail grand opening party was held March 16. Photo by Jordan Gorski.

 

Light rail opens

Five years after plans for the project were announced, the light rail took off from UNC Charlotte for the first time. The opening, which was supposed to be in August, was delayed until March. The LYNX Blue Line extension added 11 new stations, including the terminal at UNC Charlotte.

“We are hearing great response from students, faculty and staff who are not only riding light rail but doing so for a variety of reasons,” said Betty Doster, co-chair of the Light Rail Coordinating Committee. “Students are riding light rail to explore areas of Charlotte they weren’t familiar with including NoDa, Uptown, South End and other areas along the line.”

Members of the university community have been volunteering more across the city at places such as Camino Community Center, Discovery Place, Friendship Trays and the Levine Museum of the New South now that the light rail is open. It has also been easier to attend events such as March for Our Lives, 49er baseball games in Uptown and the NCAA basketball championship games at the Spectrum Center.

 

Construction begins on the Health and Wellness Center next to the Student Union. Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

Plans for more construction are announced

UNC Charlotte is the fastest growing school in the UNC System, which is great for bragging rights but not so great for anyone easily annoyed by construction.

If you’re leaving for the summer, expect to return to a new hangout spot where the Belk Tower once stood. The renovations to the area include an oval lawn, double-sided fountain, event plaza and performance stage. Facilities management also has a phase two planned for the area; however, they have no set dates for that part of the renovations.

The university announced this year Moore hall would be demolished at the conclusion of the fall 2018 semester and Sanford hall would later be demolished after the academic year has ended. The two towers will be replaced with a combined residence hall, costing 58.5 million, with 650–800 beds. KWK Architects, the company who designed Levine Hall, will design the halls’ replacement.

The UNC Charlotte Foundation released plans to build a full-service Marriot on the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI) campus, known by most as the “engineering side of campus.” The 226-room hotel would be privately funded project. The plans include a 15,000-square-foot conference center, which is one of the main motives for the project.

Other projects include a $90 million science building across from the greenhouse which is expected to be complete November 2020, a $63.5 million dollar Health and Wellness Center located next to the Student Union with July 2019 as the anticipated completion date and a $14 million Union Deck expansion, which will add 570 parking spaces and is expected to be complete in August.

On-campus crime drops

NinerNotices and NinerAlerts, both part of an ongoing effort to improve university communication, kept students in-the-know this year. Although the increased communication made crime seem high, the crime rate on-campus this year was markedly lower compared to January through April last year.

“Part one crime — the more serious crimes, and part two crime—the other reported activity, each occurred at rates more than 50 percent under last year’s,” said Stephen Ward, director of Communications.

The first NinerNotice was sent out in August. Students were alerted of a drug exchange that resulted in a shooting less than a mile from campus on Bonnie Lane. During the transaction, the suspects robbed the student of cash and a handgun, then shot him. He was taken to the hospital.

In October, a UNC Charlotte student was arrested for first-degree felony arson following the investigation of a fire in an Oak Hall closet. No injuries were reported, however, 14 students were temporarily relocated due to the damage.

In February, a man with no affiliation to the university gained access to a Greek Village residence hall and touched a victim inappropriately. Later that week, two students were robbed at gunpoint near the loading dock of the Union.

Over spring break, a hit and run at the Waffle House on North Tryon Street led to an on-campus exchange of gunfire. The victim of the accident followed the other vehicle, with four individuals inside, onto campus near Lot 27 where the four individuals began shooting and the other car returned fire. There were no injuries and no one in the cars was affiliated with the university.

Later in March, a sexual assault occurred on a walkway heading toward Campus Walk Apartments.

Suspects were arrested for each incident.

“On the whole, the UNC Charlotte campus is very safe,” Ward said. “That’s both by university campus standards and for an urban community unto itself, with more than 30,000 people living and working here.”

In a response to the string of crime, Chief Jeffrey Baker hosted a webcast where he addressed safety concerns.

Student says “he could not wait to buy a gun and shoot the university up”

The gun control debate has been intense in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. There have been threats to schools nationwide, including multiple in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County and one at UNC Charlotte.

A 20-year-old student, Matthew Saavedra, was arrested in March after he told his mental health physician in his hometown of Forsyth County he had plans to shoot up the school. He was bonded out but charged with a Class 1 felony count of falsely reporting mass violence on an education property.

Campus police searched his apartment and found a blueprint of the university from 2016 and an emergency management manual showing what students should do in the case of an active shooter. According to Chief Jeffrey Baker, there were no weapons or ammunition in the apartment. He was evicted from his off-campus apartment and is not allowed to return to campus.

Students revamp #DroptheUNC

An old movement was given life again this semester after a sign celebrating UNC Chapel Hill men’s basketball national championship was staked into the ground just a few miles outside of campus. Frustrated 49er fans convinced the North Carolina Department of Transportation to relocate it. This struck a conversation about distinguishing from the UNC name.

The sign isn’t the only reason people want to drop the UNC and change to University of Charlotte or Charlotte University, however. The campaign has been around for roughly a decade as a response to the “identity crisis” many students believe the university is experiencing.

“I’ve been passively against [Drop the UNC] since 2005 when I became chancellor,” said Philip L. Dubois.

Dubois stressed if it ever were to happen, there’d have to be broad consultation with everyone involved with the university. Despite his opposition, SGA weighed the pros and cons of a name change and considered gathering student’s opinions on the topic.

UNC Charlotte professor runs for president of Bosnia

Dr. Mirsad Hadzikadic has worked and enjoyed his time at UNC Charlotte enough to stay for 31 years, but a phone call he answered last fall may have changed the course of his life.

“There are going to be elections October 7,” Hadzikadic said, summarizing what his friend told him over the phone, “and that may be the last elections of Bosnia as we know it.”

“It seems like it might disintegrate and if you ever had any inclination and I think you have … perhaps you should run for member of presidency.”

Right away, Hadzikadic felt an overwhelming sense of duty.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a divided country; The Bosnian War, which ended in 1995, turned the three populations — based on religion and nationality — against each other: Orthodoxs known as Serbs, Catholics known as Croats and Muslims known as Bosniaks.

Nationalists want to separate from the country. Serbs want to join Serbia and Croats want to join Croatia, which would leave Bosnia as “one small enclave.”

“That was [my friend’s] fear; If we let the nationalists win this election, they will drive the country into the ruins,” he said.

A peace agreement after the war included the plans for how the country would run. Three presidents each represent one group of people and rotate out as chairman every eight months over a four-year term.

Prior to the last election, The Guardian wrote Bosnia is “home to what is most probably the world’s most complicated system of government.”

Although Hadzikadic felt this “overwhelming sense” of duty, he spent the next two and a half months after the call trying to rationalize.

He remembers thinking “there’s no way.”

It would be a burden financially since he’d earn less as president in Bosnia than at UNC Charlotte, where he has worked his way up from assistant professor of computer science in 1987 to the now founding executive director of data science initiative.

He’s also worried about the distance from his family, including his children and grandchildren, and the risks of physical danger that come with the position.

Still uncertain, he appeared on a Bosnian talk show where he spoke with political experts.

“I said, ‘Well let’s just see what kind of response there is,'” he said, “and given the type of response, the hope it generated — because my message is positive — and how people in the street wanted to hug me and greet me and say, ‘Thanks for the hope,’ that convinced me that regardless what happens, it’s a good move.”

Hadzikadic is Bosniak and Muslim but wants to run as an independent candidate.

“I will represent every single citizen, not just of the nationality that I am a member of,” he said. “I want to be the president for everybody.”

Turning the divided nation into a united one is at the top of his three-part plan. He refers to this as “Bosnia First.”

“I want people to think not about their parties or nationalities, but the country first,” he said.

He also wants to boost the economy by enforcing laws (which he hopes, in turn, will decrease corruption), getting investments from overseas and creating tax incentives for new companies.

His third focus is reflected in his campaign team; Every member is under the age of 40. According to Hadzikadic, hundreds of young people are leaving the country on a daily basis due to lack of jobs and the overall state of the country.

“I would like to create an environment where youth would like to stay,” he said.

Hadzikadic grew up in Yugoslavia before Bosnia declared independence from the country. He described it as a good childhood where everyone was equal. He sees this as no longer the case.

When he was 29, he came to the U.S. on scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. After earning his Ph.D. in computer science, he was hired at UNC Charlotte.

But if all goes according to plan, he’ll be moving back to Bosnia. He plans to spend the summer there campaigning after classes end. In the meantime, he’s traveling to U.S. cities with large Bosnian populations.

Living in the U.S. for the majority of his life, Hadzikadic believes he has a unique perspective to bring to the table. He views the U.S. as a place where differences are respected rather than feared.

“I think the U.S should be really proud that its values are being promoted throughout the world,” he said. “I’m really looking at this as an opportunity to combine the two experiences into something greater.”

Regardless if he is elected or not, he hopes his campaign will change mindsets.

“I’m hoping that this will be the start of a movement that will wake people up, get them to vote and basically take responsibility and say, ‘Not in my name. You cannot do this in my name’ …

“Honestly, I’m very positive about the outcome.”

Photo by Alexandria Sands.

Retroactive: The Pop Culture that Shaped Us

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Jeffrey Kopp (A&E Editor)

Movie: “Tarzan” (1999) – This is a film that hits me in the feels every single time that I watch it. The soundtrack by Phil Collins adds so much emotional depth to the movie; “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be in My Heart” are the definite standouts. This is by far my favorite Disney movie of all time; just thinking about it makes me want to find my copy of the VHS tape and take a trip back to the jungle.

Song: “Hey Ya!” (2003) by OutKast– The lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture” has been repeating on a loop in my head since 2003. The catchy beat immediately transports me back to the simpler times of elementary school; the deeper meaning behind the song flew over my head as a child, but I’ve been able to appreciate it more as an adult. This is a song that has stood the test of time and is definitely one of my all time favorites.

TV Show: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-Present) –  Every generation has something that culturally defines them. In the case of millennials, that is Nickelodeon’s most iconic cartoon. I have so many fond memories of watching “SpongeBob” with my parents and friends, laughing at the absurd scenarios and jokes that have evolved into memes in recent years. Without any doubt, “Pizza Delivery” and “Band Geeks” are two of the greatest episodes in television history.

“Breakaway” album cover courtesy of Walt Disney/RCA

Stephanie Trefzger (Assistant A&E Editor)

Movie: “Twister” (1996) – Granted, I only saw this movie once as a child, but it probably had the biggest impact on my life.  It scared the absolute hell out of me, and I had nightmares about tornadoes ripping through my house. In an attempt to assuage my fears, my mother encouraged me to learn more about tornadoes, and suddenly I was obsessed with weather.  Despite the science in the movie being outdated, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inspire a love and fascination for storm chasing in me to this day, and it has been my dream job for the better part of my life. If only my mother would let me.

Song: “Breakaway” (2004) by Kelly Clarkson – I love drama, and this song, as well as the album by the same name is full of it.  When I was in the car and I heard the opening notes, I would immediately stare out the window like Clarkson describes and acted like I was in a music video.  This album is also part of the reason I have trust issues; upon its release in 2004, it was the only Christmas gift I asked for from my parents. My dad, however, bought 2003’s “Thankful.”  While this is an excellent album, I felt disappointed and betrayed.

TV Show: “Shark Week” (1988-Present) – Ok, so this is more an annual event than an actual TV show, but I got super hyped for it every year (and still do).  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I have always loved the ocean, and after my disillusionment with dolphins, I became enamored with sharks instead. Due to my obsessive nature, I learned and accumulated enough knowledge about them over the last few years that I am able to take the fun out of any shark movie fairly quickly.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Hunter Heilman (Editor-in-Chief)

Movie: “She’s the Man” (2006) – At the time, “She’s the Man” was basically the funniest film I had ever seen in my entire life. This 2006 teen adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was Amanda Bynes at her most charming, the 2000s at their most iconic, and teen comedies at their most genuine. Everything about this movie is peak nostalgia and perfect memories of a much simpler time.

Song: “The ABBA Generation” (1999) by A*Teens– There is no album I have listened to and loved more in my life than Swedish pop group the A*Teens’ 1999 debut album, The ABBA Generation. Comprised of nothing but ABBA covers, I was exposed to the magic of both teen pop and disco music all in one go. Personal favorites of the album are “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” the latter of which still remains my favorite music video of all time. I love this album so much I can get emotional over it.

TV Show: “What I Like About You” (2002-2006)– I had a bit of a thing for Amanda Bynes when I was younger, as I simply found her to be the funniest person working in media targeted to people my age. I didn’t discover “What I Like About You” until shortly after it was canceled in 2006, but like “She’s the Man,” it showcased Bynes’ talents as more than just a child star. The chemistry in the hilarious cast and absolute lunacy of much of the show’s plot only cemented it more as my favorite sitcom ever.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Kathleen Cook (Sports Editor)

Movie: “The Lion King” (1994)– I loved the songs and the characters – Timon was my favorite. I’ve actually never watched the scene where the dad dies though.

Song: “Come in Eileen” (1982) by Dexys Midnight Runners– I thought it was actually “Come on Kathleen,” because my mom would always sing “Kathleen.” I was heartbroken when I first heard the song without my mom singing it and realized it was Eileen and not Kathleen.

TV Show: “Dragon Tales” (1999-2005)– I had the stuffed animals for all of the characters and had a dance routine I would do to their song.

Album art courtesy of Universal Records.

Alex Sands (News Editor)

Movie: “Beethoven” (1992)– I had three St. Bernards growing up and they all were as crazy as Beethoven in this film. They’re big slobbery messes with really big hearts and lots of love. The film is not only a nostalgic early 90s film, but it hits home.

Song: “Leave (Get Out)” (2004) by JoJo– I recently rediscovered this banger song. The only problem is the real version is not on Spotify. So whenever I want to listen to it in the car, I force myself to listen to D-Money’s remix. You may ask “Who is D-Money?” I don’t know, but he should stop rapping.

TV Show: “Lizzie McGuire” (2001-2004)– I would like to give a shout out to Bitmoji for fulfilling my childhood dream of having my own animated version of myself like Lizzie McGuire. I was a die-hard Hilary Duff fan when I was kiddo and watched the episodes over and over. To this day, I still ship her and Gordo.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Josh Worley (Video Editor)

Movie: “Gone With The Wind” (1940)– Growing up, I first remember watching this movie with my grandma. The movie takes place in a time period that I am most fond of from a historical perspective.

Song: “Africa” (1982) by Toto– Whoever says it’s not, can choke.

TV Show: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)- The greatest cartoon to ever grace this universe. There were deep moments that, when you were a kid you didn’t really think about, but they hit home now.

Photo courtesy of Jive Records.

Hailey Turpin (Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Peter Pan” (1953)– I wanted to be apart of Peter’s Lost Boys and I would jump off the couch to try to fly like him. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Song: “Oh Aaron” (2001) and “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” (2001) by Aaron Carter– My sister and I religiously listened to Aaron Carter back in the 2000’s. I have no other words besides talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique.

TV Show: “The Fairly Odd Parents” (2001-Present) and “My Life As A Teenage Robot” (2003-2009)– As an elementary school kid I was very particular about the shows I watched, and those two were the most interesting to me! The graphics and storylines were so good, and still are. I will always love Chip Skylark.

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Pooja Pasupula (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Toy Story” (1995)– While Toy Story is not my number one favorite Pixar movie, it’s the movie that always reminds me of my childhood and brings me the most nostalgia. This movie was always playing on every TV when I was a child and there are so many iconic characters and scenes encased in it. It made childhood seem like the best thing ever to be apart of. The whole series is centered around the inescapable circumstance of growing up, and being hit with that inevitability as a child was always hard for me. The whole series brings back memories of clinging to childhood and not wanting things to change.

Song: “… Baby One More Time” (1998) by Britney Spears– A timeless classic that never fails to make me smile or sing along. I was never exposed to music as a child and when my aunt found out she started to play Spears’ album around the tiny townhome she shared with my family. It’s the first song I have any memory of. At the age of four, I had no concept of what dancing was, so I would skip around our townhome to the beat of this song as my way to jam along to it. Hearing this song throws me back to that memory and the nostalgia of what the 90’s/early 2000’s era felt like.

TV Show: “Teen Titans” (2003-2006)– I’ve always been enamored with superheroes and watching this show as a child was what sparked my adoration for them. While Wonder Woman and Batman have been my core favorites for most of my life, the Teen Titans were my first love. I used to feel very vulnerable and helpless as a child, but watching teen superheroes kick ass gave me hope to one day be as strong and brave as they are. They were who I looked up to and idolized.

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video.

Leysha Caraballo (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Elf” (2003)– Watching “Elf” every Christmas season with my family was one of my favorite traditions growing up. Will Ferrell is so over the top ridiculous, as usual, but in a heartwarming way in this movie.

Song: “Numb” (2003) by Linkin Park– Linkin Park’s “Numb” showed me that music didn’t have to fit the pop music mold. I may have been a bit melodramatic, but I connected to the sound and message of the music. They were my absolute favorite band throughout my adolescence.

TV Show: “That’s So Raven” (2003-2007)– This show never got old for me, to the point where I watched multiple all-day marathons. Raven had sass, attitude and confidence – all of my favorite things!

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Mia Shelton (Opinion Editor)

Movie: Seventeen Again” (2000)– Not the one with Zac Efron, but the one with Tia and Tamera Mowry. I loved this movie because it was a unique and fun concept; grandparents using soap that their grandson accidently spilled his science experiment on that makes them seventeen again was fun to watch. I also love Tia and Tamera and seeing them on television and acting started my passion for acting. Also the grandfather is very cute when he turns seventeen.

Song: Circle of Life” (2004) by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars– I loved it because it had all of my favorite actors and actresses sing in the song like Raven Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Hilary Duff, Tahj Mowrey and many more. Hearing their unique voices combined on one of Disney’s greatest song from its most notorious movie was very moving and fun to sing along to.

TV Show: Kenan and Kel” (1996-2000)– I loved this show, because they always made laugh. Kel’s obsession with orange soda and Kenan’s elaborate plans to make money made my stomach hurt from laughing.

Photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

Emily Hickey (Managing Editor)

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)– When I was four, I watched it every day for a year and insisted that my mom dress me up in my Dorothy dress and put my hair in the two braids. Every time I watch it now I am reminded of my childhood love for the movie and for the amazing soundtrack (that I still know by heart).

Song: “Landslide” (1975) by Fleetwood Mac– My aunt used to burn her favorite songs onto CD’s and give them to my mom, and as soon as my sisters and I listened to “Landslide,” it was immediately our favorite song and has been throughout our lives. When I was three, I put on a performance of the song in front of all of my extended family.

TV Show: “Ghost Whisperer” (2005-2010)– Starting in elementary school, every Friday my dad and I would watch the new episode aired at 8 p.m. Despite after a few years it scared me too much to continue watching it, it’s still my favorite because of the time spent with my dad.

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox.

Daniel Head (Technical Director)

Movie: “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)– Duh! I watched this movie and fell in love with the “Star Wars” universe. I was obsessed with the idea of intergalactic travel and warfare, and loved the characters. Everything about the movie was great to me, and I’m still obsessed with “Star Wars.”

Song: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (2005) by Panic! At the Disco– I loved the sound song, and pretty much all of my friends did too. Just singing along with all my friends makes it memorable.

TV Show: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)– I grew up with it and, again, I was obsessed with science fiction and the characters. I think that just the depth of the characters and the universe was enough to make me look forward to next week’s episode; to see some awesome new world, new alien race, or new piece of technology. A good plot was just the cherry on top for me back then.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Angie Baquedano (Assistant Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Hercules” (1997)– I love Disney and I practically grew up on it, and when they introduced the movie they brought in my love for Greek mythology. The music was exceptional and I had the BIGGEST crush on Hercules (or should I say HUNK-ules).

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) by Elvis– I’ve had this really weird obsession with him since I was a kid. I can’t explain why or how this happened, but it did and I’m actually his wife, so…surprise.

TV Show: “Rocket Power,” (1999-2004) “Cat Dog” (1998-2005) and “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)– It might be impossible for me to choose just one for this. Apart from being a Disney kid, I was definitely a Nickelodeon child.

Album art courtesy of RCA Records/Columbia Records.

Madison Dobrzenski (Assistant Opinion Editor)

Movie: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)– I loved this movie so much as a kid, and to this day I can’t really explain why. I think it’s just because I also didn’t experience a lot of snow, so I empathized with them? I also loved anything Brenda Song was in when I was a kid, so that might have had something to do with it.

Song: “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne– I used to blare this song with my friends when I was in elementary school, despite being absolutely no one’s love interest, because we were like 12. I can still throw down to it to this day.

TV Show: “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (2005-2008)– I loved this show for a lot of reasons. One, there was a smart character with the same name as me. Secondly, I always felt “different” because the show paints Zack out to be the cute and cool twin, but I had a crush on Cody.

A walk through the Botanical Gardens

A car swooshes past at 25 mph as a dark green bus slows down to a stop. The doors fly open and students hop on their commute as others exit the back, carrying heavy backpacks with heads down, eyes on their phones. For just a moment, they pop their heads up and look both ways before jaywalking the street.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the city’s urban research university sets a peaceful sanctuary behind the sidewalks and bus stops. Directly across from the greenhouse, you enter the Botanical Gardens and suddenly, the noise begins to fade. Now, it’s just you and nature.

The Susie Hardwood gardens is located across from the campus greenhouse. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

This is the Susie Harwood gardens; The three acres are home to colorful petals and bright green leaves. As you walk down the pathways, squirrels cross unusually close and birds mock each other’s songs above your head.

You’re greeted by the fragrant paperbush. Clusters of white with yellow tips hang off of the branches. Its sweet scent is strong, but not enough to overpower the winter wine eurya just a few steps ahead. If it weren’t for the pungent smell, comparable to a litter box, passersby would give no thought to the green shrub.

Down the path, people sit at picnic tables where they listen to the pond’s constant flow of water. It’s surrounded by rocks and picnic tables where people sit and observe or relax.

“One of the things that we’ve really been trying to do here is to create places for people to come and just sit and enjoy the gardens,” says Dr. Jeff Gillman, director of the gardens.

Two freshmen, Viji Dantuluri and Jackie Gagilardo, sit on a bench at a nearby covering. They’ve been coming here since the weather began to warm up.

“Today we kind of came for inspiration because she’s redoing her backyard but usually, it’s just nice,” Gagilardo says.

“We read the messages up there,” Danuluri adds, pointing up at writing visitors have made on the ceiling of the gazebo. “And we walk to get exercise.”

Just steps ahead, a towering picture magnolia demands attention. Its long, flowy petals are bright purple on the outside, white on the inside. People stop here the most, recognizing the well known flowers.

Magnolia in the Botanical Gardens. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

Further down, you walk across a bridge with red detailing that crosses over a stream. The sun reflects off the shallow water.

Around the corner, you’re at the start of the native terrace, where native plants grow. Its beginning is marked as the Asian garden, identified by its Moon Gate, a circular opening with a brick outeiro and a red rim interior. It’s a common spot for photo shoots. Couples from the community pose for engagement photos and photography students flash their cameras, hoping the subject lands them an A on their project.

Beside the Harwood Garden is Van Landingham Glen. The Harwood was more of a “planned” garden with exotic species, but this is seven acres of native forest plants with over a thousand types of azaleas and rhododendrons. When the rhododendrons bloom in spring, it’s the best time to visit, says Gillman.

“You can see that, everything, if it’s not blooming, it’s about to bloom,” he says, on a late February day when the temperature just began to warm. “The spring just really, really pops.”

The ground is covered in bloodroot, an interesting name justified by its traits. When pulled out of the soil, a red, blood-like liquid covers the digger’s fingers. When the root is split in half, the spread of red becomes even more bold.

“You can really make yourself look nasty with this stuff,” Gillman says.

There’s a tiny wood shack in the glen with a plaque. It reads “Dr. Hech’s Log Cabin.” Today, if you look inside you’ll see an art piece, but in 1966, it was Dr. Herbert Hechenbleikner’s shed. The biology professor helped found the garden with Bonnie E. Cone. He wanted a “living classroom” for his students and a resource for the community, according to the Botanical Garden’s website. He died in 2004, but his legacy remains in the garden and this structure.

Dr. Hech’s Log Cabin. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

However, his legacy isn’t the only one that lives on in the garden. At the end of the walk, a memorial catches your attention. Cone lies here.

“It is a special thing that she decided she wanted to be in the gardens,” said Gillman. “Obviously, plants and the natural world were important to her and it’s so wonderful to have her still involved in some way with us.”

Literally and figuratively, the garden wants to keep growing. Over 40,000 people visit a year. To engage more of the community, Gillman is pushing for a visitor and welcome center, and a larger greenhouse.

“If we had that 15,000 square feet,” he said, “we’d be the premiere conservatory center between Atlanta and D.C.”

When that happens, the sounds of hammers on nails and bulldozers digging will be just one of the noisy occurrences the campus is accustomed to. And when it gets to be too much, you head to the gardens for a moment of peace. 

Now, it’s just you and nature.

Botanical Gardens. Photo by Alexandria Sands.
A bridge with red detailing crosses over a stream. Photo by Alexandria Sands.
Moongate. Photo by Alexandria Sands.