Madison Dejaegher

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OP-ED: Imagining life without music

As I sit here on campus, listening to the Ramones and staring at the giant pen in the quad, I can’t help but think, what would life be like without music?

What would life be like without jamming to the new Drizzy mixtape or rocking out to some classic Journey in the car? Ladies, how much shorter would it take us to get ready without having to find just the right tune to put our mascara on to? Guys, how else would you look cool cruising through campus with your windows down without blasting your favorite rap, indie or alt jam?

I can’t think of a time throughout my day when I don’t listen to music. We all have a soundtrack to our lives, whether your preference in music is metal rock or bubblegum pop. I’ve personally listened to J. Cole, Marvin Gay, Miles Davis, AC/DC, and Florence and the Machine while writing this.

People listen to music in the shower, while getting dressed, on their way to work, while they’re working – the list goes on and on, all the way until we lay our heads down on our fluffy pillows. Some of us even continue to listen to a soft lullaby or the gentle crushing of the waves as we lay our heads down to get our beauty rest before that 8 a.m. exam.

Music has the power to excite, calm and even inspire us in one way or another. I’d be shocked to find someone who disliked music as a whole or wasn’t touched by musical genius at some point in his or her life.

What would nightlife be like at clubs without that fist pumping DJ Khaled tune pounding the speakers? What song would we puff our smoke rings out to at our usual hookah bar? How many of us would not have been conceived without Marvin Gaye?

What would we do over the summer without music festivals such as Carolina Rebellion, Bonnaroo, Firefly or Coachella?

There wouldn’t be symphony halls filled to hear the music of great classical composers such as Chopin, Bach or Yo-Yo Ma.

No vinyls, cassettes or CDs. No Pandora, iTunes or Spotify. Goodbye Grammys, Billboard Music Awards, MTV VMAs, AMAs and CMAs.

John Travolta would have never mispronounced Idina Menzel at the Oscars. Justin Timberlake wouldn’t have “exposed” Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. There wouldn’t be a “Biggie vs. Tupac” debate. Little girls everywhere would not be able to “Let It Go.”

Would there be the moonwalk, twerking, the Charleston or Dougie? Iggy Azalea might have stayed in Australia and Justin Bieber in Canada.

I say all this to merely stress the importance of not taking music for granted. It is a gift from whatever God you may or may not worship. It has given us legends such as Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Beyoncé.

I know I thank the music gods every day, and I will continue to thank them. I will continue to kill my cellular data listening to Spotify, and will carry on depleting the gigabytes on my iPod downloading hundreds of songs until I die.

Appreciate the music and the geniuses who created it.

 

OP-ED: The woes of Greek life

Having experienced Greek life, specifically sororities, at two different universities in my college career, I have gained a similar perspective from both institutions. I used to say every school is different in regards to its Greek life, thinking some schools are more severe than others. But are they really?

If you’re not familiar with the stereotype, it falls along the lines of catty girls living the same drama and immaturity from high school. They get off by belittling the younger girls or – God forbid – girls that are not like them. They reprimand those unable to put forth as much time as they do into Greek events due to the fact that they have a job and support themselves financially.

I may not be in a sorority and I don’t ever plan on being in one, but I know plenty of people who are or were and decided to drop. I have been a shoulder to cry on through some unfortunate experiences for best friends and sisters (blood, not Greek) and have experienced the ridicules first hand.

I am aware not all sorority girls fit this stereotype – I would know because I call some of them my best friends. I am sad to say I have had and have heard more bad experiences than good ones within the Greek community.

How about a story from my freshman year when a good friend of mine asked me to be her date to the end of the year formal for her sorority. Her boyfriend went to another school, so I proudly stepped in as her date. I did not know many of her sisters and they didn’t know me. I had heard her past experiences being excluded from lunches, outings and other “sisterhood” events.

Nothing compared to the shunning we received at this party. A girl who lived on my hall, whose hair I had even held back while she vomited her Greek brains out, didn’t acknowledge me. We sat at a table by ourselves and while all of her sisters were taking pictures with each other, she was barely acknowledged as a part of the “family.” Talk about sisterhood.

Or take the account of my sister, who, while being a full time student here at UNC Charlotte, working thirty hours a week and participating in one of the university’s clubs, was also a part of Greek life. She worked a heavy schedule as a full time student to support herself, including paying for her own dues. There were more times than one when she was reprimanded for not participating in an event due to the fact that she had to work to pay rent.

Furthermore, let’s look at the aftermath when she dropped from the sorority later that year. Having classes with the girls she used to be in the sorority with ignites whispering and pointing rather than hugs and kind “hellos.”

I guess dropping comes as an insult to those who don’t understand more important priorities like a job. To put it simply, it seems as though girls you used to be “friends” and “sisters” with reject you once you are not a part of their exclusive club. Talk about sisterhood.

Lastly, I will speak about the most infuriating instance I have had with a sorority. My best friend, one of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet, has epilepsy. She is well-known throughout her sorority, as are the restrictions her disability brings her. She does not participate in drinking or partying but does participate in any alcohol-free social gathering and charity event she can.

The one event, however, that she does look forward to is the end of the year formal every sorority always has. This year, I received a call from her in tears, when she should have been having a ball.

Through the tears, she explained to me that the girl who planned this formal, a girl she is always more than friendly to, explicitly went against her need to have an environment that would not trigger a seizure. She bought strobe lights for the event, even after prior discussion and knowledge that such a needless party decoration would trigger a seizure and, therefore, purposely exclude her from the biggest event of the year.

As my friend arrived, the girl was standing in the doorway and the first thing she said to my friend was, “Don’t be mad. The strobe lights are going up in 30 minutes.” This “sister” could have chosen not to put up the lights but, instead, gave her a half hour time limit to enjoy herself. She decided strobe lights were more important than having one of her “sisters” around to enjoy the night.

Talk about sisterhood.

OP-ED: Registration season leaves some students in the dust

As summer and fall registration approached, the struggle and stress of trying to get the classes you want or, more importantly, need, came with it. As a college student, whether you’re a freshman or super senior, you’ve surely encountered the struggle of not getting into the class you want. I know I have.

It wouldn’t be college without having to take that awful 8 a.m. at least once, right? What about when that class you need – for example, Introduction to Communication Theory (COMM 2100) – has only two options per semester. For those communication students out there, you all know that COMM 2100 is a prerequisite for pre-communication studies students to declare communication studies as their major. There are only two of these classes offered each semester, with a capacity of 120 per class – 240 students in all.

According to the UNC Charlotte College Board profile, there are approximately 22,120 degree seeking undergraduates at our institution. Six percent of the student body is comprised of communication studies majors, which comes to about 1,320 students.

Allison Barnes, a junior in the communication studies program, wasn’t able to register for COMM 2100 due to overflow when she was a sophomore. She then had to wait another semester until the class was offered again to register. Waiting that extra semester delayed her from declaring communication studies and is furthermore delaying her gradation date another semester. By extension, she will now have to pay another semester of tuition.

Check out 10 other 49er memes here.
Check out 10 other 49er memes here.

Similar to the communication studies department, the psychology department makes up seven percent of the student body with approximately 1,548 students. Research methodology (PSYC 2101), a required course for psychology majors, is only offered twice for this upcoming fall semester, and I can assume it’s the same for other semesters. This class has a meager capacity of only 80 students – 160 students in all.

While attempting to research what department handles the availability of classes, or lack thereof, I pursued the Office of the Registrar. While there, I was informed that they do not control what classes are offered or the amount that is offered. The academic departments themselves control this. Now, I assume a department would rather have full classes with waitlisted students, rather than have half full classes.

But I’m curious if departments realize this university is growing at a very fast rate, and therefore, the departments themselves are growing. Certain classes continue to fill time and time again, and students continue to be waitlisted – or worse, forced to wait another semester for the class to become available.

Of course, not all departments are like this, and no university is perfect. But as I have talked to students from other universities, they seem to rarely have the problem of not being able to register for a class they needed. These students all have something in common: They were all able to graduate in four years. This then brings me to the question of how realistic and practical the “four year plan” really is.

How are we, as a student body, supposed to graduate in four years if we can’t even take the classes required for us to pursue our desired major? I would like to believe university departments and our educators have their student’s best interests at heart and are not attempting to have students needlessly pay for extra semesters of tuition, but I’m cynical. I urge certain departments to look into making classes more available and helping students take the classes they need when they need them.

OP-ED: The education system puts too much focus on the past and not enough on students’ modern rights

As a high school student, I always enjoyed history. I enjoyed learning about the different U.S. presidents, how our nation was formed and the stock market crash. There was always one question that I seemed to ask myself, though: Haven’t I been learning the same history since the fourth grade?

Who led the Confederate states in the Civil War? Jefferson Davis. What was the battle that began the Civil War? Fort Sumter. What was the bloodiest battle? Gettysburg. What countries were a part of the Triple Entente as well as the Triple Alliance? How many women did Henry VIII marry and have beheaded?

The questions could go on and on. High school students have been taught and retaught the same parts of history since elementary school. I want to clarify that I am in no way squashing the importance of teaching history. I love history, but I am more concerned with what parts of history we focus on.

I am aware of the saying, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” However, as Robert C. Schank, an artificial intelligence theorist and education reformer who has taught at Stanford and Yale points out, “I guess no U.S. president ever took history because they have all forgotten the lessons of the Vietnam War, the history of Iraq and the history of foreign incursions into Afghanistan.”

If there is one thing I wish I could have taken with me from my history lessons when I graduated, it would have been something relevant that I could apply to my daily life.

Several weeks ago, I watched a YouTube video that has become a viral sensation. This video, performed and written by David Brown, is a song where Brown expresses his opinion about the education system and how certain subjects are stressed in the wrong context.

Some lyrics especially stood out to me: “I was never taught what laws there are, or the laws of the country I live in…But I know how Henry VIII killed his woman” and “I was shown the wavelengths of different hues of light but was never taught my human rights. Apparently, there are 30. Do you know them? I don’t.”

Sadly, just like him, and I assume many others, I am not aware of many of my basic human rights. As I get older and become more involved in society, I am coming to the sad realization that there are far too many cases of our rights being violated or infringed upon and the even sadder realization that half of society is unaware.

Human rights are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights regardless of one’s nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.

The First Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press. The Supreme Court has also interpreted this amendment as protecting freedom of association. However, there are still incidents where the government and local law enforcement agencies interject in peaceful protests. The biggest infringement upon this right, specifically freedom of association, would be the mass spying on American citizens by the National Security Administration.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful search and seizure. If you are ever pulled over by a police officer, they do not have the right to search your car or frisk and pat you down unless probable cause is established. They may not seize anything illegal in your car unless it is in plain view.

The Fifth Amendment addresses due process of law, eminent domain, double jeopardy and grand jury. In 2010, a Supreme Court ruling asserted that people have to invoke the right to remain silent even when they are not formal suspects and haven’t been read their Miranda rights. So now your due process rights are no longer a basic right but something that has to be stated on the record.

These situations I am pointing out may not happen to the average college student on a daily basis, but we are blessed with the liberties and rights under the Constitution, and it is our duty as citizens to be educated on such things. We live in a society where people in power take advantage of their inferiors and lack of knowledge. It is our responsibility to know what is right and wrong and to hold such wrongdoers accountable, all the while keeping ourselves safe.

OP-ED: Proposed toll lanes on I-77 will do more harm than good

When I heard toll lanes were going to be added to the I-77 highway here in Charlotte, I was passive about the issue.  How could an extra lane addition affect someone like me on a daily basis? After speaking with some key opponents of this issue from the group Widen I-77, my opinion became more active.

Widen I-77 is a citizens group concerned with ending the creation of the toll lanes. The toll lane project will stretch across 26 miles of I-77, starting at the Brookshire Freeway (Exit 11) in Mecklenburg County to N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Iredell County, using High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.

HOT lanes are segregated toll lanes that run next to general purpose lanes, requiring drivers to pay a fee that varies based on demand (congestion pricing). The higher the congestion, the higher the toll. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) says on their website, “Express lanes are the key to unlocking congestion along the I-77 corridor. They offer drivers a choice – pay a toll and use the express lanes to avoid travel delays, or continue driving on the general purpose lanes for free.” In reality, these HOT lanes will do more harm than good to the citizens of Charlotte for more reasons than one.

Sharon Hudson, a concerned Lake Norman citizen and also a member of Widen I-77, asserts that the better solution to this congestion problem is building general purpose (free) lanes, rather than HOT lanes. Her group has done thorough research to back this assertion. One study shows the highly congested parts span 14 miles and would cost approximately $100 million-$130 million to widen with general purpose lanes. The current plan to build one HOT lane from Exit 36 to Exit 28 and two HOT lanes from Exit 28 to Exit 11 would cost $655 million. It would span 26 miles and require the removal and rebuilding of nine bridges and a cemetery in the process.

Photo courtesy of Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates
Photo courtesy of Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates

The NCDOT’s reason for not expanding general purpose lanes, as they recently did on I-485 in South Charlotte and Concord, is lack of funds. Its solution to the lack of funds is to build lanes that charge people a toll, depending on the level of congestion, to pay off the HOT lanes within the 50-year contract. The NCDOT says its contract with the private Spanish company Cintra, “significantly speeds up the schedule to add more lanes on I-77. Without it, the state would not have sufficient funds to complete this project for at least 20 years.”

The truth is, toll lanes are a billion dollar business, which Cintra will be cashing in on. Cintra and other private investors would not waste millions on a little 14-mile, $100 million project. They would, however, have much greater incentive to invest in a more enticing and lucrative 26-mile, $655 million project. An appropriations bill that was passed in the House of Representatives and has crossed over to the Senate awarded the N.C. Turnpike Authority $1.4 billion, yet the NCDOT says there are no funds for general purpose lanes.

As described on Widen I-77’s website, “The NCDOT study forecasts that this HOT lane non-solution will cause commute times in the ‘free’ lanes to double by 2035.” The same NCDOT study forecasts a round trip commute between Mooresville and Charlotte during rush hour using the HOT lanes will cost over $20 and double by 2035. These “Lexus lanes,” as some are calling them, are meant for a meager 5 percent of people willing to pay this amount on a daily basis. What about the other 95 percent?

The NCDOT would pay for $88 million of the costs up front and would be responsible for up to another $75 million if revenues aren’t enough to cover the debt service. Two-hundred and fifty million dollars of the cost is backed by a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, which is backed by the federal government. Widen I-77 found that similar toll lanes in Texas and Indiana are going through bankruptcy and loan restructuring. If the same were to happen here, Charlotte citizens would pay the price in taxes.

What are the citizens of Charlotte doing now to put a halt on activities pursuant to this issue? Widen I-77 recently filed a suit in Mecklenburg Superior Court to stop the I-77 toll lane project. The group’s complaint contains 12 separate counts. Widen I-77 has said there are many moving parts, which will be discussed at a series of town hall meetings next month. Upcoming meetings will be held at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. I urge you to attend and become even more educated on this issue. If you are unable to attend the meetings, please visit WidenI.77.org for more information.