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.

Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Her work has been published in Charlotte magazine, 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 at her home in Oak Island. Reach her at community@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.