Andrew James

Andrew James is a Senior Communication Studies major and Journalism minor. He has worked for the Niner Times in the news and video departments since his freshman year at UNC Charlotte. After college, Andrew aspires to be a television news reporter. Outside of school, Andrew enjoys running and hiking in the mountains.

UNC Charlotte student helps deliver stranger’s baby

A UNC Charlotte student heading to class Tuesday morning found something unexpected outside of his apartment.

“It’s not often you hear about a 19-year-old delivering a baby with his neighbor,” said junior Biology student Daniel Kepple, “It was a pretty extraordinary morning.”

As Kepple walked down the steps he saw a woman laying on the ground by an apartment door.

“I asked her, ‘is everything okay?’,” he explained, “she said, ‘no, I’m about to go into labor.’”

After realizing the situation at hand, Kepple called his mother, a nurse, who told him to grab water, towels and pillows from his apartment. He says the woman could not go into his apartment because he lived on the third floor and she could not walk that far.

Apartment complex where junior Daniel Kepple helped delivery a baby. Photo by Andrew James.
Apartment complex where junior Daniel Kepple helped delivery a baby. Photo by Andrew James.

While Kepple gathered supplies in his apartment, his neighbor heard the woman screaming and began delivering the baby.

When he returned the neighbor began to feel woozy and nauseous so he continued delivering the baby with the help of a 911 operator.

“I jumped in and pulled the baby out the rest of the way and cleaned off the baby, wiped the airwaves and it started to cry after that,” he shared.

The baby’s cry is a moment he will never forget.

“I was really thankful that it started crying after I cleared the airwaves,” he said.

Kepple says his first aid training from growing up as a boy scout helped prepare for the situation; both of his parents are also in the medical field.

Kepple did not get to talk to the new mom much but would love to connect with her and meet the boy he helped deliver.

Looking back, Kepple says he would do it all again if given the opportunity. He is even considering adding a medical degree to the PhD he plans to pursue.

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball student manager dies in car crash

Austin Rainey, student manager for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball. Photo courtesy of Andrien White.
Austin Rainey, student manager for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball. Photo courtesy of Andrien White.

Austin Rainey, a student manager for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team died in a car crash Thursday in Northern Virginia.

School officials say Rainey was on a trip to Washington, D.C. with friends when the crash happened.

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Mark Price said in a statement, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rainey family during this difficult time. Austin was a beloved member of the 49ers basketball family. His uplifting presence will be greatly missed.”

Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball guard Andrien White said of Rainey in a tweet, “Today we lost a huge part of our organization. RIP Austin. Supported me from day 1 & only wanted to see me succeed.”

Matt Sholtis, Charlotte 49ers basketball manager, also tweeted his condolences.

“Unbelievably sad to hear the news today,” he tweeted. “Still can’t believe it. Rest in peace Austin, you will definitely be missed.”

The team wore black laces in their shoes during the game Saturday against Western Kentucky University in honor of Rainey.

The funeral for Rainey will be Feb. 26 at 11:30 a.m., at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill.

Facebook contest rallies support for Super Bowl bound Panthers

UNC Charlotte is in a Super Bowl themed Facebook contest with the University of Colorado Denver and you can help out with just one click on your smart phone.

The contest rules are simple. Both universities posted a picture of their mascot on their Facebook page cheering for their respective NFL team. Supporters of each university are asked to comment, like and share the picture.

The university with the most comments, likes and shares on their photo wins the contest.

The losing university has to post a video of their mascot rooting for the opposing team Saturday.

UNC Charlotte Social Media Manager Brandon Kirkley says the contest was planned the second the Super Bowl match-up was set.

“They were ready to pick a fight with us,” said Kirkley. “They contacted us wanting to do a fun social media Super Bowl competition and asked if we had any ideas.”

The idea for the contest came from UNC Charlotte student and Social Media Intern Kristie O’Neill.

“I really wanted to do something that got Niner Nation involved in the campaign because, you know, it’s a huge thing for our city to be in the Super Bowl,” said O’Neill.

The last thing Kirkley says he wants to see is Norm pulling for the Denver Broncos.

“If we lose, Norm has to hold a ‘Go Broncos’ sign and really root for the other team on video,” he said, “and if they lose they have to do the same thing for the Panthers so we don’t want to let Norm down,” said Kirkley.

The contest ends Friday at 5 p.m.  To support UNC Charlotte visit the UNC Charlotte Facebook Page.

Fans pack Uptown Charlotte for Panthers Pride Rally

The Carolina Panthers are headed to the Super Bowl, but before they left the City of Charlotte threw the team a record-breaking going away party.

More than 25 thousand fans packed Romare Bearden Park in Uptown Charlotte Friday for one more chance to see their Carolina Panthers before they head to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.

The Panthers Pride Rally, produced by Charlotte Center City Partners, featured appearances and performances by Sir Purr, the TopCats, PurrCussion and the Black & Blew Crew.

A handful of Panthers players and Head Coach Ron Rivera made appearances as well, earning a loud Panthers roar from the fans decked out in their black and blue.

Linebacker Thomas Davis told the crowd the team would do everything in their power to bring home the Super Bowl title.

Local politicians including Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory were also on-hand to pump up the crowd.

The crowd varied from toddlers to grandparents, some like 9-year-old Kenyon Stanley even got to miss school to attend the rally.

“My dad gave me a choice,” he exclaimed, “that I could go to school or come here, and 100 percent I will come here!”

Like many others, Stanley had high hopes of seeing his favorite player Luke Kuechly and snagging as many autographs as possible.

When asked what his plans were for the day, he replied without hesitiation, “Keep Pounding, cheer for the Panthers, no more teams.”

The Carolina Panthers are expected to leave Bank of America Stadium around noon Sunday to begin their journey to the Super Bowl.

Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

On your mark, get set, go: 49er Gold Rush 5k races into 15th year

On Feb. 6, 2016 UNC Charlotte Recreational Services will host the 15 annual 49er Gold Rush 5K.

Starting on the Irwin Belk Track, the 3.1-mile course will wind through UNC Charlotte’s campus finishing back on the Irwin Belk Track.

Assistant Director of Promotions & Special Events for Recreation Services, Kemet Gatchell, is excited to see the event continue to grow every year.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the race grow from less than 100 participants to a good sized event,” said Gatchell.

Gatchell adds the race has had a record number of participants for the past three years and this year’s participants could set a new record.

The 5K is one of the first of the year for the University City area so for many runners it will be their first of the year.

“It’s also great for someone who made a New Year’s resolution,” said Gatchell.

The course will showcase various parts of campus, while offering a challenge for all runners.

“It is a challenging hilly course,” said Gatchell. “That takes in parts of the ever-changing UNC Charlotte campus.

Gatchell noted that Chancellor Phil Dubois is registered to run the race and has been a participant over the past few years.

Net proceeds from the race will go to UNC Charlotte Recreational Services student development scholarships and direct donations will be taken for Girls on the Run.

Registration for the 5K will continue until the morning of the race.  Online registration can be completed on the UNC Charlotte Recreational Services website.

Pictures of possible replacement to Belk Tower emerge online

As students returned to UNC Charlotte to find an empty Belk Plaza where the Belk Tower once stood, pictures and sketches of a possible replacement tower surfaced online.

The creator of the pictures; however, says the pictures were only to estimate costs if the university chose to build another tower and they are not a design that has been chosen.

The pictures and sketches show a replacement tower soaring close to the same height as the Belk Tower that is made of brick to match the main entrances to campus.

Photo courtesy of Chris Gilbert
Photo courtesy of Chris Gilbert

Chris Gilbert, director of facilities planning, said of the drawings, “There was a sketch… that I did early on that was just thinking graphically and what might replace it, but it is in no way a design that might be eventuality.”

“It was in order to assess what the cost would be if we were to replace the tower with something of a similar scale,” said Gilbert.  “But given that were going through this public outreach over the next few months, other ideas will come to the fore.”

After the sketches were complete, Gilbert reached out to various construction companies to find out cost estimates of demolishing the tower and building another tower of a similar size.

“It was purely speculative but I had to have enough information for the administration to give a good idea,” said Gilbert.

As for the cost estimate of the possible replacement tower, Gilbert says it was over a million dollars. A similar amount to what it would have cost the University to repair Belk Tower, rather than demolish it.

“A bit more, but not vastly more than if we were to try and fix the existing tower,” said Gilbert.

Potential Belk Tower redesign. Photo courtesy of Chris Gilbert.
Potential Belk Tower redesign. Photo courtesy of Chris Gilbert.

Gilbert shared officials were not even sure they would be able to fix the Belk Tower until they were able to see the inside of it.

The university has created the Belk Plaza Planning Committee to gauge community interest and ideas for the Belk Plaza. Gilbert hopes his drawings will not be shown to the committee.

“You don’t want to hamstring committee members and also the public in their brainstorming or their idea process,” said Gilbert. “So if you show something too final, if it just looks that way, then that might dovetail them into a certain perspective on what the quad could be or the plaza could be.”

He added that no construction drawings were completed with the possible replacement tower.

As for now, Gilbert said the plaza should be open in the coming weeks

to foot traffic.

“Draw construction is filling in where the tower had been and paving it with brick and doing repairs to the bricks that were damaged during the demolition of the Belk Tower,” said Gilbert.

The Belk Plaza Planning Committee held it’s first meeting Jan. 19 and will hold the first public forum Feb. 8.

Students, faculty, staff and the Charlotte community are encouraged to attend the public forums to voice their opinions or concerns about the Belk Plaza redesign to the committee.

This will be the first of three seperate public forums.

Man shot during armed robbery at University Walk Apartments

A man was shot early  morning Dec. 9 at an off-campus apartment complex near UNC Charlotte.  This marks the third shooting at an off-campus apartment complex in the past two weeks.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) officers responded to the University Walk Apartments around 1 a.m. Wednesday after a man was shot during an armed robbery.

Police say the suspect attempted to rob 23-year-old Brandon Shevlin and 20-year-old Kathryn Hogan at gunpoint.  The suspect shot Shevlin in the arm during the robbery.

Medic transported Shevlin to the hospital and say he is expected to survive.

Detectives say the shooting was not a random act of violence and that the suspects and victims know each other.  They are also investigating to see if drugs were involved in the shooting.

CMPD is asking people to share whatever information they may have on the shooting.

Shooting at University House apartments

One person was shot on the night of Nov. 28 at University House apartments, according the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Police say the shooting happened around 8:30 p.m. after two people were involved in an altercation.
The victim was transported to Carolina’s Medical Center, where police say they are alert and talking.
University House released a statement Nov. 29 through email. The email stated that there is no police report as of yet and there are very few details surrounding the shooting.
The statement also mentioned that while the shooter has not been apprehended yet, police have confirmed that the incident was not a random act of violence and that the public should not be alarmed.
University House Apartments. Photo by Ben Robson
University House Apartments. Photo by Ben Robson

UNC Charlotte police offers to begin wearing body cameras

Officers with the UNC Charlotte Police Department will soon wear body cameras during their patrols.

The police department is following the lead of many departments across the nation and requiring officers to wear body cameras while on-duty.

Lieutenant Brian Thomas serves as watch commander and emergency management coordinator for the department and said the department has been working to get body cameras for almost a year.

“These are the latest and greatest in police technology,” said Thomas. “They allow us to videotape wherever we go.”

Officers will turn the cameras on anytime they are coming into contact with someone on their patrol. After their shift, the video will be downloaded and kept for permanent record.

“You just flick a switch. It will record every single bit of the audio and video of any confrontation or even altercation we may run into,” said Thomas.

He stressed that these cameras protect everyone, not just the officers.

“This is a tool that protects everybody,” said Thomas. “I don’t want you to think that this goes out to protect the police because facts never protect one party or another, facts protect everyone.”

UNC Charlotte student Prince Moody is pleased with the department’s new policy.

“I hate to say it, but there are some crooked cops out there,” Moody said. “And lots of times it’s their words against ours unless there is some video footage.”

But, Moody hopes the department explains their reasoning behind purchasing the cameras.

“What is the real reason behind them wearing body cameras?” he said. “Is it actually for our own benefit?”

The department plans to use the body cameras once all officers complete training, which could be as soon as this week.


Chancellor Dubois addresses Belk Tower demolition concerns

With the demolition of the Belk Tower set for winter break in December, Chancellor Phil Dubois addressed the UNC Charlotte Student Government Association (SGA) student senate Nov. 5 about the controversial decision to tear down the tower.

Dubois announced the demolition of the tower in an email in mid-October.  The email cited “significant structural issues,” and said the tower “posed a potential safety hazard.”

Dubois elaborated on the structural issues during the meeting.

“It’s a series of concentric concrete donuts stacked on top of each other, held together by metal plates,” he explained.  “The metal plates are wearing and may break, particularly if we had a high wind event.”

The demolition is estimated to cost $128,000 and will take a couple of weeks, according to UNC Charlotte Associate Director of Media Relations Buffie Stephens.

DH Griffin Companies has been hired to complete the demolition project.

Dubois is forming a committee to gather ideas for the redesign of what will be called the Belk Plaza.

“The committee will be formulated this semester,” said Dubois.  “I’ve already asked your president for the names of some students to be considered on that task force.”

Dubois added that the committee will be made up of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Additionally there will be three public forums for members of the UNC Charlotte community to voice their opinions and ideas for the plaza.

One idea already suggested is to memorialize the tower in the redesign of the plaza or to place it at the Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen.

Dubois hopes the plaza can be a special area on campus for students and faculty to grow and learn.

“Moving forward, we can have a much more beautiful, memorable and useful area of campus by taking a little time to be thoughtful about what it would look like,” said Dubois.

As for the cost of the redesign of the plaza, Dubois said it is too soon to know for sure but he relies on past experiences for a rough estimate.

“How much will it cost,” he asked.  “ I don’t know, but my experience around here tells me it’s going to be 1-2 million dollars to fix that plaza.”

Dubois added, “If we were to spend a million dollars on the tower, that would be a million dollars we couldn’t spend on something else around here.”

Over 3,000 alumni and students responded to the survey created to gauge interest of purchasing remembrance items of the Belk Tower.  Most were willing to pay between $10 and $49 for a piece of the tower.

A final design for the plaza is expected by May 2016.

Students fight Belk Tower demolition

Construction fences now surround the UNC Charlotte Belk Tower as the university prepares to demolish it over winter break, but students are not letting the tower go without a fight.

This comes after Chancellor Phillip Dubois announced earlier this month that the tower had structural issues and that it posed a potential safety hazard.

Sophomore Brian Schmidt shared his disappointment in the decision.

“It’s our thing, why should we lose something that’s ours,” said Schmidt. “[Belk Tower] represents us.”

Other students took their thoughts to social media. Ashleigh Wallis wrote, “Why are they taking down belk tower?! It’s part of the character of UNCC.”

Andre Powell echoed her thoughts. “Belk Tower is literally the icon of UNC Charlotte. It’s something we take pride in as niners,” said Powell. “It’s tradition. #SaveBelkTower.”

An online petition to save the Belk Tower has gained support since it was created. It is now approaching 800 signatures. A Facebook page and website are also spreading the word and garnering support for the tower.

Other students though, like Daniel Bruce, trust the chancellor’s decision.

“I’m sure if they think it’s the right thing to pull it down and probably put something else there instead then I think that’ll probably be the right thing to do,” said Bruce.

An exact demolition date has not been announced at this time.

UNC Charlotte holiday card design contest

The UNC Charlotte College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is holding a holiday card design contest.  Any student with a major or minor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is eligible to enter their designs until 5 p.m. Oct. 26.

The college decided to use a student design for the card after they used a former student’s work for last year’s card.

“Last year, we reached out to meteorology undergraduate Ricky Matthews…We had seen his postings of snow photographs from a major snowstorm in February of 2014, as he captured images of the UNC Charlotte campus,” said Lynn Roberson, communications director for the college of liberal arts & sciences.

Roberson says the card was received well by the UNC Charlotte community and she looks forward to seeing submissions they get this year.

“We’re excited to see what the students come up with,” said Roberson. “We know that our students have a range of creative ideas, so that’s quite exciting for us.”

The rules for the contest state that the work must be created by the submitter as an original work and can be photography, painting, illustration or any other form of visual art.

The artwork cannot depict or refer to any specific religious holidays and does not need to include the College or University logo.

To enter the contest, artwork should be sent to Lynn Roberson via email, Dropbox or the university’s Google Drive.  Students also need to complete an entry from found at the contest website.

The holiday card is sent to donors and friends of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.  It is also distributed to alumni and posted on the college’s social media sites, main website and news website.


Belk Tower to be dismantled

Belk Tower. NT File Photo.

In a letter released to the UNC Charlotte community today, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois announced that the Belk Tower will be dismantled over holiday break in December.

Dubois said that engineers and university personnel suggest that there are significant structural issues and deterioration within the tower.

“Although the Tower is not an immediate risk to campus, it does pose a potential safety hazard and it is prudent to take precautions,” said Dubois.

The deterioration is explained to be the “natural result of age-related corrosion, water penetration and rust that have damaged the Tower’s concrete, metal and electrical components,” said Dubois in his statement.

Dubois says that the restoration of the tower would cost an estimated $1 million.

A construction fence will be placed around the Belk Tower to create a pedestrian safety zone until December, when it is expected to be dismantled.

The university plans to redesign the area into what will be known as the Belk Plaza.

“Removal of the Tower provides us with an opportunity to redesign the entire quadrangle formed by the surrounding buildings to create a more functional outside environment for rest, reflection and conversation,” said Dubois.

According to Dubois, the university will select a landscape design firm to complete the project later this semester.

The Belk Tower was built in 1970 and funded through a gift by Irwin Belk and his brothers John, Thomas and Henderson to create a central quad on campus.


Teach-in addresses racial tensions on campus

UNC Charlotte students and faculty members held a teach-in Sept. 29 to discuss racial tensions on campus and ways to grow and heal as a community.

This comes after students made allegations that they overheard racial remarks in a conversation between staff members about diversity in student leadership positions.

After the allegations surfaced, UNC Charlotte released a statement saying in part,

“Over the past few days, UNC Charlotte has received expressions of concern from African-American students regarding remarks that were heard to have been made by Student Affairs staff members in a meeting conducted in our Student Activities office.  We have worked carefully to understand the details of the situation in order to respond appropriately.”

The university also held a forum open to staff and students to address the incident Sept. 28.

UNC Charlotte masters student Ashley Williams helped organize the teach-in after she was unsatisfied with the university’s response to the allegations.

“I’m not impressed, I’m not happy, I’m unsatisfied,” said Williams. “I’m really unsatisfied with how they have not dealt with the situation accordingly.”

Freshman Kendra Shaw echoed Williams’ disappointment with the university’s response.

“I feel like the university just did something to say that they could.  I don’t think that they got to the root of the issue,” said Shaw.

Shaw believes the root of the issue that racism is still prevalent.

“I think racism is still prevalent,” said Shaw.  “I feel like we just need to sit down and really talk about how we can come together as a community and be a community regardless of our race.”

Williams hopes some of the solutions discussed in the teach-in will be implemented by UNC Charlotte administration.

“I think that we need to look a the things that we have in place that reinforce structural and systemic white supremacy, so maybe it is looking at how our student organizations are ran or who runs them,” said Williams.

Her next step is to meet with administration to share her personal plans.

“I’m going to get organized around the people who are willing to do the more active role and get those on paper and get those out to the administration,” said Williams.