Alexandria Sands

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 or @alexsands_.

Q&A: Lavien, Crean win 2018 SGA election

Chandler Crean (left) was elected student body vice president. Niayai Lavien (right) was elected student body president. Photo courtesy of Lavien.

Niayai Lavien and Chandler Crean were announced the 2018-19 student body president and vice president April 5. They won with 54 percent of the 1435 votes and will officially be sworn in Thursday.

Niner Times: What was your reaction to finding out you had won?

Niayai: I couldn’t help but cry because I was so overwhelmed. I could barely get my words out to express my excitement. This campaign was tough and long and I’m so happy with the outcome of everything. Chandler and I are incredibly excited for what this year has in store.

Chandler: I was lost for words. I couldn’t help but to stop and think that all the hard work paid off.  If you would have told me back in 2014, when I first met Niayai, that we would end up at the same university and campaign for SGA office together, I would not have believed it. However, our fellow peers believed in us to serve the student body.

What is the first thing you want to work on in office?

N: The first thing that we would like to do is make the SGA website more user friendly. We want to place our updates, minutes and photos there so that people will have more access to everything that we’re doing. Too many people don’t know all of the meetings we have and things we can accomplish and we want everyone to stay in the loop.

C: The first thing I want to work on in office is making sure that every Forty-Niner knows that we will be available in our office to hear any concerns that they may have. With an open door policy, students will have a direct form of communication with Niayai and I.

One major project I will be taking on is working with our information technology services on the alumni email project. This project will allow degreed alumni with having an email account via Gmail, the university’s current email service.

A year from now when you look back, what do you want to have accomplished?

N: I hope to have effectively completed each of the tenants of the platform of amplifying student voice, increasing transparency and creating a legacy. I hope that every student feels like they can actually communicate with SGA administration and feel like their voice is equally important.

C: I want to be able to look back and feel that every Forty-Niner has had the opportunity to stake their claim here at UNC Charlotte. Students should be able to have a say in major decisions that are being made as our university continues to grow.

What do you want students to know going into this administration?

N: I want students to know that they can always approach me with any concern or question that they have. This position was created to be a resource and liaison to the student body and we can’t wait to serve. My office is always open and I’m here to not only help but to ensure your experience is a good one. Every part of our platform we plan to execute is based on helping Niners.

C: I will put this position at the front of my responsibilities going into our term. I want to make sure that I have ample amount of time to listen to concerns from students. Our administration will be made of students that will continue to make changes to better our university.

What would you like to say to everyone who voted for you? 

N: Thank you for believing in Chandler, I and our platform. We love UNC Charlotte and want to create a sense of community and improve the student experience. We won’t let you down and we can’t wait to start our term.

C: Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the amount of support Niayai and I have had over the past few weeks. With having to vote not once, but twice, you have all stood behind us through our campaign. It would not have been possible without the connections that I have made on campus from various organizations and leadership opportunities.

UNC Charlotte LGBTQ+ Center could be in the works

A vigil for Blake Brockington was held Friday night at the star quad. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

Blake Brockington walked the UNC Charlotte campus open and proud of who he was.

He was a role model for the transgender community, regularly participating and speaking at rallies, and was crowned North Carolina’s first transgender homecoming king at East Mecklenburg High School.

Yet, his friends still laid flowers down in front of his picture Friday night at the star quad. They still lit candles and spoke kind words of him. They still cried and comforted each other and stood silently, mourning his death.

Brockington chose to end his life three years ago.

His death serves as a reminder of the struggles people in the LGBTQ+ community face, often discriminated against and ostracized.

Three years after his death, a group of students are requesting a space on campus that can provide resources and support to the university’s LGBTQ+ community.

The UNC Charlotte LGBTQ+ Coalition was formed to campaign for the LGBTQ+ Center. They got the Student Government Association (SGA) on board. SGA passed legislation March 1 that approved the center, which doesn’t ensure the center will be created but communicates to university administration the center is wanted by students.

“We hope to have space secured for the LGBTQIA Resource Center by the end of our term,” said Bryan McCollom, student body vice president.

The coalition is hoping the space will be put in Cone, preferably and envisions it will have resources for students. They specifically want to partner with Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“I feel and I want it to be a space where anybody who is struggling, like Blake, is able to come in and see that they are welcome and that they’re in community,” said Clover Barin, a member of the coalition.

Other schools have spaces like this, including Appalachian State, East Carolina University, North Carolina Central and NC State.

An online petition titled “UNCC Needs an LGBTQ Center” has over 1,000 signatures. Many students and faculty have voiced their support in the comments.

“I believe LGBTQIA+ students (including ally’s) on campus should have a place to be themselves with students on the spectrum and promote inclusion and diversity,” wrote Junior Estevan Torres. “This is the step in the right direction to promote community.”

Michael Denton, who was UNC Charlotte’s assistant director of new students and academic programs from 2003 to 2010, wrote: “Students deserve a space where they can be themselves freely and in safety. North Carolina, Charlotte and our country is still very hostile to queer people despite limited gains. I implore you to be an institution even more welcoming, affirming and contributing to LGBTQ+ students lives and academics.”

“This is important,” wrote Kara Stephens. “Everyone deserves to feel safe.”

Meet the candidates: Niayai Lavien, Chandler Crean

Niayai Lavien and Chandler Crean. Photo courtesy of Niayai Lavien.

Niayai Lavien, a junior political science and philosophy major, is running for student body president. She’s been with Student Government Association (SGA) since she was a freshman.

“I’m qualified for the position and I know that I have the passion and the drive to do it,” she said. 

Lavien has lived in the University City area for the majority of her life. She serves as speaker of the Senate, a Students Advising Freshman Excellence counselor, a member of College Democrats and runs a beauty YouTube channel.

Her running mate is Chandler Crean, a pre-business major and political science minor. He currently serves as SGA chief of staff, president of Pi Kappa Phi and has been a Niner Guide for two years. 

The two met at a leadership retreat in high school when Lavien was a senior and Crean was a junior.

“When he decided to go to UNC Charlotte, I encouraged him to join SGA,” Lavien said. “Ever since then I think we’ve both grown through the organization and we’ve seen the real change and progress that SGA can have on the student body.”

The two are running on the platform “Strike Gold,” which consists of three tenets: amplifying student voice, increasing transparency and creating a legacy on campus.

“Our platform is dedicated to making [student’s] voices front and center,” Lavien said.

Lavien and Crean think students feel like they can’t actively contribute to campus decisions.

“A lot of decisions that are being made are being made without students actually understanding why they’re being made and they don’t feel included in the process,” Lavien said.

To fix this, they want to strengthen the connection between students and SGA. One way is to create a website where students can voice their concerns as opposed to voicing them solely on social media and holding more town halls students can speak at.

The second part of their platform, increasing transparency, was created to “bridge the gap” between administration and students with more events where they interact.

“There seems to be a gap where staff and faculty knows something is happening but students aren’t completely aware of that,” Lavien said.

They also want to utilize more social media to communicate and make sure students don’t “feel left in the dark” when it comes to topics such as construction, new initiatives and programs.

Another issue they want to face is the university’s “identity crisis” and lack of traditions. To do this, they want to encourage more participation at events such as International Fest, Homecoming and Week of Welcome as well as create new events and work with athletics.

The team is running against Mildred Martinez and RJ Chisolm.

“Mildred and RJ are both experienced SGA members and I admire them very much … but I think our platform is more centered on the students,” Lavien said.

The election will take place online at on March 27 and 28. Students can also vote for sophomore, junior and senior class presidents as well as senators.

If elected, they will be sworn in April 12.

Creating an impact in and out of the lecture hall

Dr. John Cox. Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte.

A year ago, UNC Charlotte students met in the Student Union rotunda, carrying signs that protested president’s travel ban. Muslims, Latinos, blacks, whites, female, male, gay and straight, all united, and among them, one white, middle-aged man stood out, as he made his way into the center of the crowd.

With all eyes on him, Dr. John Cox removed his jacket, revealing his T-shirt that read “Refugees welcome.” Cheers and clapping filled the building, many of which belonged to his students.

One of those students was Casey Aldridge.

“Dr. Cox does a good job supporting students by showing up and most importantly, by recognizing and deferring to student leadership,” he said. “He knows how to show real solidarity, not just lip service.”

Cox’s interest in social justice stems from his childhood. Growing up just a few blocks from where the Greensboro sit-ins took place in 1960s, he was actively aware of racism.

“I was fortunate that my folks really educated us to be vigilant and sensitive and knowledgeable, but also to be a force against racism,” he said.

However, his interest piqued at Appalachian State University, where he took classes about Latin America and the Holocaust and wrote as the opinion editor of the student newspaper. After graduation, he took a break from schooling, worked as a labor organizer and got involved in human rights issue and an anti-war movement. In the late 90s, Cox decided to attend graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill. Following graduation, Cox founded and directed the Genocide and Human Rights Center at the Florida Gulf Coast University. He was there for five years when he heard of an opening at UNC Charlotte. When offered that position, he didn’t hesitate.

“I accepted within like one minute,” he said. “When you’re offered a job as a professor, you’re suppose to kind of delay and negotiate … but I was very happy to come back out here cause I’ve spent most of my life in North Carolina … this is really my home.”

He’s published two books while working as the Director of the Center of Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights at the university. In February 2016, he published “To Kill a People: Genocide in the Twentieth Century,” one of the only small, concise books that overviews holocaust and genocide. He was inspired to write a book that covered the history in a broader context.

“Even still today in 2018, the holocaust is often taught as if it came out of nowhere and is a complete aberration in human history,” Cox said. “When in fact, it was really the culmination or it was the product of all sorts of terrible trends in European and in Western history. That is, Hitler and the Nazis didn’t have to invent anything, whether antisemitism, racism, even the conception of trying to kill a people because of who they are.”

His book took about three years to write.

“[My writing process is] probably similar to my students’ processes of writing their papers, which is that I work better when I have 12 hours before deadline. It is kind of ironic,” he said, jokingly. 

Chapter by chapter, he received feedback from other experts in the field. One of his graduate professors at UNC Chapel Hill, Chris Browning, read the book.

“John is an example of someone who has managed to combine scholarship in the form of publishing several books, teaching and dedicated civic engagement and activism that utilizes his historical knowledge,” Browning said.

Even with help from others, though, Cox jokes that the book is not perfect.

“You know what, still a typo will slip through no matter what,” he said. “I tell my students, I really do, you have to proofread everything ten or 15 times.”

Cox’s keeps a sense of humor despite teaching courses on heavy topics. He says what keeps him going is his study of resistance.

“I see resistance and rebellion,” he said. “I see people in small and large ways asserting their dignity. I see other people extending solidarity to oppressed people … I don’t think anyone is immune and definitely no society is immune from being lured into mass violence and support for mass violence … Fortunately, there’s never been a regime that ever came to resemble George Orwell’s “1984” where independent thought and solidarity and resistances were completely snuffed out.”

And what keeps him happy is Carolina basketball and Barcelona soccer. He also enjoys reading, working out, traveling and music. His newest hobby, though, is hanging out with his stepkids. Cox said “I do” a few months ago to a professor he met while she was teaching at UNC Charlotte.

Both are involved in immigrant and refugee rights in Charlotte. Their most recent project is with Queen’s University’s new social justice center. Cox also works at the Latin American Coalition, where he provides testimony for people at risk of deportation. He’s also been involved at the International House. On a recent visit there, he ran into four of his previous students. He says surprise interactions with alumni like those students are some of his most gratifying experiences as a professor.

“Those are the kind of things that sustain all of us professors,” he said. “There are days when all of us professors and instructors come out of a class and feel slightly down, we’re like ‘man half the class was zoned out’ … but I just always see evidence that I’m reaching people and I’m learning from my students too.”

Cox plans to stay at UNC Charlotte until his retirement. What keeps him here is the people, but also the city. It’s not one that he’s always gravitated toward, but he has come to love it.

“I had an image of Charlotte as a big city of bankers and yuppies,” he said. “But fortunately in the last 20 years or so I guess, Charlotte really has become more diverse.”

Currently, he’s working on another project, co-editing a book with historian Adam Jones called “The Routledge Handbook of Genocide Studies” that will publish in either 2019 or 2020.

Mike Hill of University of Florida named athletic director

Mike Hill. Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte.

Mike Hill, the current Executive Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs at the University of Florida, will be taking over as 49ers athletic director starting March 15.

The search for an athletic director, led by Turnkey Search Managing Director Gene DeFilippo, was narrowed down to two finalist: Hill and Phil Esten, Penn State deputy athletics director and chief operating officer. Chancellor Philip L. Dubois announced his final decision Wednesday.

According to Dubois, Hill’s accomplishments during his 25 years at the University of Florida made him stand out.

“Mike has a deep background in a highly successful athletic program from a ‘Power Five’ conference, so he has played lead roles in hiring and working with highly successful head coaches, negotiating multi-million dollar media agreements and facilities naming rights, and being on point in external relations for the Gators,” Dubois said. “But we were equally impressed by his sports administration experience and his dedication to the welfare and personal development of student-athletes.”

Hill will replace Judy Rose, who served as UNC Charlotte’s athletic director for 28 years but announced in January that she’d retire in June.

“I am completely humbled by this opportunity to lead the Charlotte 49ers,” said Hill. “The campus and facilities are spectacular, but what impresses me most are the people. I can’t wait to return to the city that has so many special memories for me and get to work.”

Hill, a Clemson, NC native, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1990 with a degree in communications and political scicence.

A new Belk Plaza

Renovations for Belk Plaza will include an elevated lawn, a performance stage, a fountain and an event plaza. Illustration by McAdams. Courtesy of Elizabeth Frere.

In the Belk Tower’s 45 years, it saw free speech in the form of protests, students breaking out into flash mobs and vigils for live’s lost. In December 2015, the Belk Tower’s legacy ended when it was dismantled due to structural damage and potential safety concerns. This month, construction fences went up where the tower once stood, in hopes that renovations, developed by a team of consultants, will recreate the interaction and engagement at the core of campus that has been lost since the removal of Belk Tower two years ago.

The university breaks ground on the plaza this week, at the center of Winningham, Kennedy, Colvard halls and Atkins Library. Within the next six months, the first phase of the renovation plans will be complete. Phase one includes an oval, slightly elevated lawn that will lead up to a performance stage and a fountain that will be installed directly across from the stage, at the opposite end of the lawn. It will be made out of natural stone and double-sided with two tiers of cascading water on one side and a flat sheet of water going into the ground on the other. The edges of the lawn will be surrounded by seat walls with plants behind. Adjacent to the fountain, there will be an event plaza with a gray paving.

Those working on the project at facilities management are hoping the natural stone and gray colors will make the space stand out amongst the primarily brick campus.

They are also making improvements to the area, such as replacing bricks and removing the steps and ramp in front of Winningham Hall, flattening out the entrance.

The project manager Elizabeth Frere hopes the anticipated success of phase one will speed up the process of receiving funding for phase two.

“I think people are going to be so excited once this gets installed, that it’s going to be obvious that we want to go ahead and upgrade the rest of it,” Frere said.

Phase one is outlined in black. Phase two, not yet funded, includes study bosque and a swing courtyard. Illustration by McAdams. Courtesy of Elizabeth Frere.

If funded, phase two will include a study area in front of Kennedy and a swing courtyard, with either hammocks or swinging chairs, between Colvard and Rowe. The designers also envision adding some type of dining, such as a food truck or a restaurant, to one of the corners of the plaza.

The Belk Plaza Planning Committee hosted three community forums last year where LandDesign pitched conceptual plans and accepted feedback and suggestions from attendees. At the final forum, designer Adam Martin said [LandDesign] had concluded that the renovations to Belk Plaza should attract people and emphasize the plaza as the core of campus, based on the responses they received during the previous forums. At the first forum, senior landscape architect Richard Petersheim mentioned the area was only used as a pass-through, calling it “sleepy,” compared to other parts of campus, such as the Student Union.

One goal LandDesign had during the forums was to create a design that would eliminate the “straight-shot” walk and encourage people to walk in a curve.

December 2015

December 2015. Photo by Chris Crews

January 2016

Chain link fences still surround the remains of the Belk Tower, January 2016. Photo by Ben Robson

February 2018

Construction at Belk Plaza. Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

Fall 2018

Renovations for Belk Plaza. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Frere

Countdown to the light rail

The light rail at its terminal on UNC Charlotte’s campus across from Wallis Hall. Photo by Jordan Gorski.

The whole university has been waiting for it.

March 16 could mark a transformational day for UNC Charlotte. Next month, students will take the first of many rides on the light rail extension and begin experiencing a Charlotte full of opportunities such as sports, food, the Arts, cultural experiences and festivals. Unlimited rides to Uptown, NoDa and other parts of Charlotte, outside of the university area, could open up a whole new city for students.

“We’re all, as a university, still a little excited and curious to see how the campus community takes light rail and uses light rail,” said Jared Moon, a member of the Light Rail Coordinating Committee. “I think a lot of our prospective students come from places that aren’t Charlotte and don’t realize what you can connect to in a city this size and it’s at your fingertips, it really is.”

The opening day is also the first round of the NCAA basketball championship games at the Spectrum Center, located in walking distance to the Arena Station.

Its been almost five years since Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) signed a deal with the government to pay for half of the $1.16 billion it would cost to extend the LYNX Blue Line. With the completion, the light rail will now have a total of 26 stations, including its terminal at UNC Charlotte and a stop at the university’s Center City campus.

After negotiating with CATS, the university was able to make a deal that provides students an all-access pass for $25 a semester that will be paid as part of tuition. Students will only pay $10 for Spring 2018. The pass gives students unlimited rides on light rail, trolleys and majority of CATS transit including local and express buses. Faculty and staff can buy a pass for $75 a year. For non-students, the cost for a one-way is $2.20, a round-trip is $4.40 and an unlimited day pass is $6.

In a 22 minute ride, passengers will be able to travel from main campus to 9th Street, only a short walk from UNC Charlotte’s Center City campus.

The extension added 11 new stations to the light rail, now 26 stations total. 107 trains will arrive on campus each day, with one arriving every 7.5 minutes during peak hours, every 15 minutes during non-peak hours, every 20 minutes on weekends and every 30 minutes at late night. CATS buses will be available to ride at most stops and Niner Transit is adding new buses in April to ensure a bus is available at the station every eight minutes.

With the new 49er ID cards that were distributed to students last year, riders will be able to tap their cards at contactless readers that will be installed later this year. Until then, riders will present them to conductors when asked.

As the opening day inches closer, some students have voiced concerns with safety, considering the light rail will be attracting more people to campus. In response, the UNC Charlotte’s Police and Public Safety Department added more police officers so there could be constant patrol at the station, especially during peak and night hours. In case of an emergency, the department’s building is right next to the station and there are blue light phones surrounding the area. However, those working on the light rail don’t believe crime will be a large issue.

“If somebody is coming to campus to steal or to cause harm, they’re probably not taking the light rail train to and from, where there’s cameras everywhere, where they’re kind of stuck,” said Claire Apaliski, the project manager on the UNC Charlotte Light Rail Coordinating Committee.

CATS also takes their own safety measures at stations by installing security cameras and having security officers on trains.

Everyone knows the light rail is coming, but where is it going?

Everyone knows the light rail is coming, but where is it going?

UNC Charlotte main station

  • North side of campus
Ninety’s Ice Cream & Sandwiches. Photo by Kristopher Harris.

J.W. Clay Boulevard/UNC Charlotte

  • Ninety’s Ice Cream and Sandwiches
  • Paradise Valley Par 3
  • Dave’s Paddleboats


  • University City Regional Library
IKEA. Photo by Kristopher Harris.

University City Boulevard

  • IKEA

Tom Hunter

  • South 21. Jr

Old Concord Road

  • The Last Word bookstore

Sugar Creek

  • Crown Station Coffee House
Neighborhood Theater. Photo by Kristopher Harris.

36th Street (NoDa)

  • Crêpe Cellar Kitchen & Pub
  • Cabo Fish Taco
  • The Evening Muse
  • Hart Witzen Gallery
  • Popbar
  • Neighborhood Theater
  • Haberdish
  • Smelly Cat Coffee
  • Reigning Doughnuts
  • Heist Brewery
  • Benny Pennello’s

25th Street

  • Free Range Brewing
  • Amélie’s French Bakery


  • Abari Game Bar
UNC Charlotte Center City. Photo by Kristopher Harris.

9th Street

  • Center City
  • Subscreto
  • McColl Center for Art and Innovation
  • Waterbean Coffee
  • Sports One

7th Street

  • 7th Street Public Market
  • ImaginON: The Joe & Joan Martin Center
  • Levine Museum of the New South
  • First Ward Park
  • Google Fiber Space
  • Mert’s Heart and Soul
  • Discovery Place
The Epicentre. Photo by Kristopher Harris.

Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station

  • Spectrum Center
  • The EpiCentre

3rd Street

  • Convention Center Station
  • Amelie’s French Bakery
  • NASCAR Hall of Fame


  • The Mint
  • The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
  • Gantt Center
  • Bank of America Stadium
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • JP Charlotte in The Westin


  • Midnight Diner


  • Wooden Robot Brewery
  • All American Pub
  • Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art
  • Futo Buta
  • The Brass Tap

East/West Boulevard

  • Tupelo Honey
  • The Liberty
  • Price’s Chicken Coop
  • Clair De Lune boutique

New Bern

  • Triple C Brewing Co.
  • Lenny Boy Brewing Co.
  • Mac’s Speed Shop


  • Queen Park Social
  • Great Wagon Road Distilling Company
  • The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery


  • Three Spirits Brewery
  • Rountree Plantation
  • Arepas Grill
  • Beef ‘N Bottle Steakhouse


  • Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
  • Vietnam Grille
  • Fordham Park


  • The Burrito Factory
  • 500 Degrees Pizzeria
  • Payal Indian Groceries & Spices


  • Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits
  • Tamaleria Laurita
  • La Catracha Restaurant

Sharon Road West

  • Snyder’s-Lance Factory

1-485/South Boulevard

  • Target, Old Navy, Nordstrom Rack
  • AMC Carolina Pavilion 22
  • Steak ‘n Shake

To learn more about the light rail, read the Niner Times latest article here.

Armed men threaten University Crossings’ resident, continuing streak of crimes near and on campus

Two men broke down a locked door at University Crossings and threatened the resident with a firearm early Friday morning during a robbery.

According to an email sent to residents, the two men, described as African-Americans, broke down the locked door and threatened the resident with a firearm around 12:30 a.m. The crime occurred in Building A, directly across from the main entrance of UNC Charlotte.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) responded to the incident and are investigating. No injuries were reported.

The crime follows another incident at the complex on Sunday, Feb. 4. A male non-resident sexually assaulted a female resident, inappropriately touching her around 4:15 p.m. The incidents occurred at the entrance to Building D and inside Building F. No injury was reported and CMPD responded.

The man fit the same description of one that inappropriately touched a student in Greek Village at approximately 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3.  The victim reported to campus police that the suspect gained access into the resident hall and made a lewd comment toward her. When asked to leave, the suspect ran toward the victim grabbing her hand and touching her buttocks. Then, he fled the building. During a search in the area, officers noticed an individual matching the description walking in the Mallard Green Apartment complex but lost sight and were not able to locate him again.

Another armed robbery occurred at UNC Charlotte earlier in week, before 2 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, when two students were robbed at gunpoint. The robbery, which took place near the loading dock of the Student Union, involved three males who reportedly approached the victims seeking their property and then fled the scene. The suspects were later arrested.

Should we be the University of Charlotte?

NT File Photo.

Conversations about changing the name of UNC Charlotte have spread on Twitter with the hashtag #droptheUNC, but Chancellor Philip L. Dubois says a name change is unlikely during his administration.

“I’ve been passively against it since 2005 when I became chancellor,” said Dubois, addressing the Student Government Association (SGA) at their Thursday Senate meeting. “Many people think that if we … drop the UNC and became the University of Charlotte, that this would be a more distinctive identity for us.”

The #droptheUNC hashtag started circulating on social media in January following the viral #FireJudyRose hashtag which urged the university’s athletic director either be fired or retire after a 1-11 football season. She announced in January that she would retire at the end of the academic year.

“We figured we would give the name change a try again after #FireJudyRose was so successful,” said alumnus Jon Lotti, an advocate for the name change.

Dubois stressed if it ever were to happen, there’d have to be broad consultation with students, alumni, donors, faculty and staff.

“I’m going to leave that to the next chancellor,” he said. “I just think it’s a big project. We got so many more important things we need to worry about.”

#DroptheUNC gained momentum last week after a sign that celebrated UNC Chapel Hill’s 2017 men’s basketball national championship was installed near the university. Outraged 49er fans convinced the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to relocate it.

NCDOT said on Twitter the sign’s placement was a mistake and it was supposed to be installed north of I-77 along I-85 S but was placed there due to construction. It is now being relocated closer to the South Carolina state line on I-77.

The name change isn’t a new concept that developed from the controversial sign, however. Roughly a decade ago, SGA polled students to see how many would want a name change. The results were divided almost evenly.

According to the current student body president Tracey Allsbrook, SGA recently weighed the pros and cons of a name change and brainstormed ways they might gauge student interest on the topic.

“We do understand it won’t be just as easy as changing the name,” she said. “There is a great deal of rebranding that would have to take place as well as costs associated with it.”

In the near future, SGA will be looking at ways to survey and collect data from students.

“It probably won’t be completed under my administration, but we will have information moving forward [for] students to work from,” she said.

Student body vice president Bryan McCollum said he would support an official committee exploring the option.

Allsbrook and McCollum are also considering compromises, such as removing “uncc” from the university’s website and email addresses as a way to stop the acronym from competing with the Charlotte name.

“My view has always been … that what will make the most difference for UNC Charlotte’s reputation is not its name but its deeds,” Dubois said.

He pointed out that UNC Charlotte, only 71 years old, is considered young in higher education and the university’s reputation is still being developed.

Dubois said he imagines UNC Charlotte growing to a population as large as 60,000 students, with classes spread throughout the city on different campuses.

“Believe me,” he said. “If you’re a university of 60,000, they’ll know your name.”

49er fans have Tar Heel sign removed from I-85

Photo courtesy of @TheFirst49.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is removing a sign from I-85 that celebrates UNC Chapel Hill’s 2017 men’s basketball national championship after pleas from UNC Charlotte 49er fans.

The sign, placed between W.T. Harris Boulevard and Mallard Creek, is located between two exits near UNC Charlotte’s campus. NCDOT recently approved a program that allows schools to request and pay for signs that list the university or college and team that has won a national championship.

NCDOT announced in December that the signs would be on I-95, I-77, I-40 and I-85.

After UNC Charlotte 49er fans took their pleas to Twitter, NCDOT announced Thursday that the sign would be relocated closer to the South Carolina state line on I-77.

Nick McEntire was the first to post the sign to Twitter. “Looking to see if anyone else noticed this: there appears to be a DOT sign on 85N between Harris and Mallard Creek celebrating the Tar Heels 2017 national championship,” McEntire wrote. “Am I seeing that right?”

“We, the UNCC population, don’t want another school’s accomplishments next to our campus,” wrote Freshman Tristan Field.

According to the NCDOT Twitter account, the sign was originally supposed to be installed north of I-77 along I-85 S but was placed in its current location due to construction.

In response to the sign, students and alumni began the hashtag #droptheUNC in hopes to change the university name. It’s not a new idea. In 2009, the Student Government Association (SGA) took a poll to see how many students wanted to change the name.

“It is time to at least begin talking about [a name change], to better create our own identity and make us more marketable as a university,” Senior Derek Miller said.

Being a female engineering student

At UNC Charlotte, the William States Lee College of Engineering is an attractive program.

For starters, most classes are taught on the Charlotte Research Institute campus, well-known for its alluring academic buildings and state-of-the-art facilities. In addition, most students can graduate in four years and move on to a hiring field. Plus, an engineer’s paycheck is fair.

In fall 2016, UNC Charlotte recorded that the college’s undergraduate population was 3,107. Less than 400 of those students are female. Why?

Research shows that engineering is a field which women don’t gravitate toward. Studies suggest that girls divert from math and science at a young age. In 2015, Microsoft found that 11-year-old girls interested in STEM subjects quickly lost interest by age 15.

The following are students in UNC Charlotte’s engineering program. Many of whom are leaders of females in their major.

Alexis Montague. Photo by Katelynn Pennington.

Alexis Montague

No one introduced Alexis Montague to the possibility of being an engineer. It was an interest she found herself. Even when she saw an advertisement for the field, it always featured men.

Now, Montague is a mechanical engineering major with a concentration in biomedical engineering and is president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at UNC Charlotte.

“I was always a hands-on type of girl. I would always take things apart and put them together,” Montague said.

Her mom enrolled her in engineering camps which exposed her to civil engineering but she wasn’t sure about the different types until she did research online. That’s how she found her major.

Montague thinks females stray away from her major because of the unfamiliarity.

“I don’t get to see a lot of people that look like me or other girls within the classroom studying,” she said.

But that’s not the only con. Stereotypes play a large role.

“I feel like sometimes people don’t take you seriously. They think that ‘oh, she’s just going to be here for the first two years and then she’s going to transfer out into another major.’ I feel like sometimes they think we’re not built to learn,” she said.

Montague has seen why women stray away from engineering.

“I’ve heard multiple girls say ‘when I was in high school, I thought about maybe majoring in engineering but somebody told me it would be too hard,’” she said. “I’m just like ‘who told you that would be too hard for you?’”

Those challenges have helped Montague grow. Today, she describes herself as someone who has thicker skin and a stronger voice than before.

Alshraefarana Alharthi. Photo by Greyson Nance.

Alshraefarana Alharthi

As a high school student, Alshraefarana Alharthi’s teachers suggested she pursue a field outside of science and math. Her aunt told her engineering was difficult and she wouldn’t make it. Even her grandfather, someone she describes as pro-education, was shocked when she told him she was considering engineering.

This spring, Alharthi will graduate with a major in systems engineering after serving as president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at UNC Charlotte.

“I’m defying everything that everybody thought I was going to be,” she said.

Alharti was encouraged by her parents to take on a challenging major that would lead to a stable career and income, specifically engineering, medical or law.

“My mom raised us saying that if we weren’t better than she is then she didn’t do a good job,” Alharthi said. “She’s a biochemist so it’s really hard to beat that.”

Alharti doesn’t think she faces challenges as a woman in engineering.

“I think it’s even something better. I bring in a different mindset than the guys do,” Alharthi said. “Especially when you’re in a group of five and you’re the only female, the Powerpoints definitely look better.”

She likes to be challenged, under pressure and on a deadline.

To other women interested in engineering, Alharthi says they should try it and never give up.

“If you’re 50 percent on the border of ‘should I do it or not’ just stick to it… If you don’t like it, don’t go through it because you won’t be happy… If you’re just scared, if that’s the reason, just power through it and it will all work out.”

Giana Avent. Photo by Katelynn Pennington.

Giana Avent

Raised by a single mom, Giana Avent spent a lot of her childhood in her mother’s mechanical engineering office.

Entering college, Avent jumped right into the engineering program at Charlotte, joined organizations and loved the community, so much so that she added civil engineering onto her construction management major.

Although Avent does see mostly positives, she has noticed differences between herself and her male peers, especially with group work.

“I might be one of two girls. Me and her are gonna get together and we’ll find two other guys,” she said.

The challenge is putting yourself out but once you do, she says, everything gets better.

“You do meet a lot of good people… I strive to look for more women. I’ve met great friends. We all have the same aspirations, same dreams,” Avent said.

As for advice, Avent recommends students build a support system, cut out what they don’t need to have better time management, know their limit when it comes to credit hours, and most importantly, love what you do.

Levine Scholars create awareness of human trafficking

Co-founders of Not in my City Project Erin Coggins and Sydney Welch (front) with T-shirts models in front of the Student Union. Photo courtesy of Erin Coggins and Syndey Welch.

Imagine a girl.

Her name is AnnMarie and she’s 13. She’s in eighth grade and has a best friend. Her favorite subject is math.

She just got her first boyfriend. He tells her she’s beautiful. He comes to see her every day at the bus stop. She thinks she’s in love, regardless of the age difference. He’s 35.

He says he’s short on money this month. He needs a favor but she’s hesitant. He tells her it’s a one-time thing. She believes him and agrees.

Then, it happened. Then, again and again. Within a month, she is forced to serve 15-20 men a night. Within a year, this man has made $200,000 selling AnnMarie to strangers for sex.

She is just one of 100,000 prostituted children in the U.S.

North Carolina is ranked in the top fifteen states for human trafficking and Charlotte ranks as the number one city in North Carolina.

When Senior Erin Coggins heard that, she needed to act.

“Something struck inside of me. Something broke,” said Coggins. “I can’t be here in Charlotte and know that this happens in my backyard and not do something about it.”

She started doodling, cursive writing that read “not in my city” and outlines of her hometown’s skyline. The sketches went straight from Coggin’s journal onto T-shirts. She has raised over two thousand dollars for human trafficking survivors through selling the shirts. The money goes to Present Age Ministries, a Charlotte organization that works directly with teen girls who are victims of sex trafficking.

The shirts she sells are named after girls: AnnMarie, Kayiah and Emma, the name of Coggin’s sister.

UNC Charlotte student models the Emma T-shirt. Photo courtesy of Erin Coggins and Syndey Welch.

“We named them girl names so that way people can start to understand that we’re talking about a person,” Coggins said. “A real, living, breathing person who has to live day in and day out with the trauma and the horrors that have happened to them.”

The shirts are just one way Coggins is spreading awareness of human trafficking. Junior Sydney Welch and Coggins launched the Not in my City Project in August. Their mission is to educate college students on the severity of human trafficking.

“If we can reach college students now, then in two years, in five years, in 10 years, we’ve reached doctors and teachers and businesswomen and businessmen… and they can all advocate for freedom where they are,” Coggins said.

As Levine Scholars, Coggins and Welch are required to intern with a non-profit organization the summer after sophomore year. Both women interned and are now mentors at Present Age Ministries, the place that inspired them to focus on human trafficking for their civic engagement project. The university provides Levine Scholars $8,000 in funding to complete their projects, which Coggins and Welch put toward a web designer for

At the start of Coggins’ internship, the organization was looking for a way to engage college students and Coggins’ wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

“Two years later, that’s what we’re actually doing which is really cool to see all of that come full circle,” Coggins said.

Coggins and Welch are using their experience from Present Age Ministries to recruit and train other college students to spread awareness. The volunteers host awareness events where they meet student organizations on campus. They discuss what human trafficking is and squash false connotations.

Each human trafficking case is different, but often they start online. Perpetrators use the internet to establish trust with children, usually girls 12- to 14-years-old, and begin meeting them in person. This is called the “grooming process.” Then, the perpetrators ask them for “favors” to earn money. Eventually, the child is prostituted several times a night. Perpetrators use physiological manipulation, fake romance and violence to control the victims.

“The pimp is not a random thug off the side of the street,” Welch said. “He’s a businessman. He knows what he’s doing.”

After entering the sex trade, the average age for victims to live is seven years. This can be due to violence, suicide, drug overdoses or other causes. Only 2 percent of victims are ever rescued. Most victims are taught to avoid law enforcement and never ask for help. When victims are rescued, it costs an average of $14,000 a year to provide them the services needs, not including housing.

“We believe that these girls matter,” Coggins said. “In order to prove that to them, you provide them services regardless of what she comes in with.”

Human trafficking is prominent in Charlotte because of entertainment hubs that attract prostitution such as Time Warner Cable Arena, the convention center and Bank of America Stadium. Charlotte also provides easy access to highways such as I-85 and I-77.

Coggins and Welch hope students at other universities will reproduce this project on their own campus. They’re also training underclassmen to continue the project after they graduate.

“We really do want it to be for college students by college students,” Coggins said. 

Coggins, a social work major, hopes to work one-on-one with survivors after graduation. Welch, an accounting major, is applying for law schools.

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.  All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous.

Semester rewind: A recap of UNC Charlotte’s fall

Atkins Library is full of students studying for exams, Christmas lights are being hung, and plans are being made for winter break. Once again, a fall semester at UNC Charlotte is coming to an end. Let’s look back at what has happened in the past few months.


One year since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott

The Black Lives Matter movement has been prevalent in the country since the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2013 but it hit close to home in 2016 when Keith Lamont Scott was shot by a police officer just a few miles from the UNC Charlotte. Protests erupted throughout the city and on campus. The events of that month were remembered this September, one year later, with several events hosted by UNC Charlotte including a social justice organization fair and a public discussion.

“Colored” sign hung above resident hall water fountain

A photo of a “colored” sign above a water fountain in Holshouser hall went viral on social media. The student responsible came forward to Housing and Residence Life staff in a written message saying “there was no intention to hurt anyone or insinuate that UNC Charlotte represented or approved of racist beliefs, nor do I believe in them.” In a mass email, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said “intolerance and bigotry have no place within the inclusive culture we strive to achieve at UNC Charlotte.” Dubois also said that the student would meet with university officials to review the incident under the Student Code of Responsibility.


Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

42nd annual International Festival

The university held its annual International Festival on Oct. 14. The event attracts the Charlotte community to campus for a day of experiencing culture through food, dance and music. Over 50 countries were represented.

Homecoming Week

Niner pride was at its peak during Homecoming Week in October. Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and Jay Pharaoh performed for the Homecoming Comedy Show in Halton Arena. Other events throughout the week included Trivia Night, Basketball Madness, Rave on Crave and the Homecoming Stroll Competition, all of which led up to the Homecoming Parade. The Charlotte 49ers took the win at the Homecoming game against UAB. During halftime, Junior Tyriq Evans and Senior Ena Walker were crowned homecoming king and queen.

The 49ers celebrate after winning their first homecoming game in a nail biting overtime. Photo by Chris Crews.


Students react to class scheduling change

The chancellor announced in a mass email that there would be a change in class scheduling starting fall 2018. Any Monday, Wednesday class between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. will be 50 minutes with a third class on Friday. Currently, these Monday, Wednesday classes are 75 minutes with no class on Friday. According to Dubois, the change is a proposed solution to congestion on campus. An online petition against the change received over 7,000 signatures. Andrew Sarber, the creator of the petition, wrote “many students like to construct their schedules so they are free on Fridays to do homework and free up their weekends.”