Barry Falls Jr

Barry Falls Jr is the former managing editor of Niner Times. His writing and photography has been featured in Niner Times, Yahoo! News, Radio Free Charlotte and Shutter 16 Magazine.

Student body president debate reveals clear front-runner

The 2013 student body president debate. Brian Sullivan (left), Eden Creamer (middle) and Brady Nails (right). Photo by Chris Crews

Building up to the 2013-14 Student Government Association (SGA) elections, Student Body President candidates Brady Nails and Brian Sullivan met in the Cone University Center to address campus issues in the Student Niner Media debate last Monday, March 25.

Nails is a History major, graduating in May 2014, who plans to attend law school after graduation. Before Monday’s debate, Nails and his running mate James Shaw have previously expressed interest in helping SGA regain focus on student life and academics.

Sullivan is a Finance and Math major, graduating in May 2015, who wants to maintain a full-time job while earning his Ph.D. in math. He and his running mate Hank Tigri want to bring parking prices down and change the way donor funds are used.

Absent from the debate was Finance major Spencer Boone and his vice presidential candidate Sebastian Feculak, who dropped out of the race the morning of the debate for “personal reasons.”

The debate, which was moderated by Niner Times News Editor Eden Creamer, permitted each presidential candidate to answer five predetermined questions regarding important issues on campus, ranging from tuition fees to on-campus violence.

In front of an audience of roughly 20 students, the opposing candidate was then afforded the opportunity to rebute the competitor within a one-minute time slot.

Here is what each candidate had to say about the issues:


Changes to the way tuition fees are allocated

Leading up this year’s SGA election, Nails’ campaign started the Twitter hashtag #fixitbrady, which Nails uses to help identify commonly reported problems on campus. Through this, he found that students’ primary issue revolves around campus parking.

Nails explained that Parking and Transportation Services (PaTS) is self-sustained, meaning that parking decks and services are funded only by the money that is collected through fees. Nails would like to use the funds collected from parking citations to alleviate the price of parking permits.

Nails misspoke when he stressed the importance of changing the way funds collected from parking citations are allocated. While parking permits do fund the construction of new parking decks, it is a common myth that UNC Charlotte allocates fees that are collected from parking citations. Instead, that money is remitted to the State of North Carolina.

An outspoken libertarian, Sullivan compared UNC Charlotte to a business, where the students are the customers. He wants students to have more say in the way money is allocated on campus, but didn’t give specifics about his plan to alter monetary channels.

He later expressed concern for the way the Campus Activities Board (CAB) utilizes money. Sullivan told the story of how he recently went to a CAB event that appeared to be expensive with only four or five students in attendance.


Improvements to academic advising

An undeclared Math major, Sullivan compared declaring certain majors to solving a puzzle. Again, without giving specific details, he suggested that he has a desire to alter the structure in which faculty advise students. He plans to begin that project by “looking into” the problem more closely.

Nails called upon his experience as an orientation advisor where he was in charge of registering students. He doesn’t feel like advisors are the problem.

“I think that some of the departments on campus use teachers too much to advise. That’s an extra burden on the teachers and an unnecessary cost to the students,” he said.

Nails plans to require teachers to post their syllabi online for students to read before registering for classes. This is a similar concept utilized by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where they give students access to a “syllabus bank.” This way students have a clear idea of what will be required of the class before the first day.

Nails later described providing students with more information about classes before registration as their primary initiative.


Making parking and transportation easier on students

Student body president candidate Brian Sullivan. Photo by Chris Crews.

Sullivan described the parking dilemma as his and his running mate Hank Tigri’s “star issue.”

They plan to approach the problem with a business plan, by personally going to the private parking businesses in Charlotte and allowing them to expand their business on campus.

Sullivan also wants to utilize donor funds to alleviate student fees and UNC Charlotte debt.

Sullivan’s plan has been criticized by current Student Body President Conor Dugan for being unclear and unrealistic.

Additionally, donors will give money to specific financial needs on campus, not to UNC Charlotte as a whole. So Sullivan would have no control over where donor funds would be distributed.

Nails feels that UNC Charlotte is not receiving as much donor funds because of our poor alumni connection. He also says that encouraging alumni to donate to the university is the chancellor’s responsibility and that it is SGA’s responsibility to initiate conversations about where that money should be channeled.


Helping SGA better serve the student body

Sullivan feels that communication between SGA and the student body needs to be strengthened. He wants to set up a way to update students about SGA happenings. Here he compares SGA to a business that spams its users with special deals.

If Sullivan is elected student body president, he promises to make SGA as transparent as possible. He also promised to personally answer any email he receives within 24 hours.

Nails agreed that transparency is vital, but feels that few students care enough about SGA to look into staying updated.

“Transparency can only help if you’re looking. And the problem is that students don’t look at SGA. Though we are the second largest school in North Carolina in terms of undergrads, we don’t have people paying attention to SGA,” Nails said.

Nails and his running mate Shaw have continued to run on the platform focused on repairing the disconnect between SGA and student life, and continued to reiterate this idea throughout the debate. Nails vaguely said he wants to make SGA more vocal, but didn’t offer specifics aside from being “more vocal.”


Better establishing a sense of school spirit and community on campus

Student Body President candidate, Brady Nails. Photo by Barry Falls Jr.

Sullivan strongly believes that the addition of the football team will help better establish school spirit on campus and that it should happen naturally. He doesn’t feel SGA should play a big role in the process.

“I don’t feel like you should have to force someone with social goals. I think that’s crazy. If people don’t want to be involved, let them not be involved,” Sullivan said, highlighting his libertarian approach to the SGA role.

As a former commuter student, Nails doesn’t feel like UNC Charlotte activities cater to students who do not live on campus. He feels that student organizations should make sure they are more accommodating of students who need to drive to campus to attend meetings and other activities.

“I think until we recognize that we have two very different kinds of students here, we cannot unite all of the students here,” he said.

Nails feels that the football program will help unite UNC Charlotte with the rest of the city as well as better connect UNC Charlotte with the alumni network. He also suggested that as the football program brings non-students to our campus, UNC Charlotte would be seen more as part of the city.

In response, Sullivan contradicted himself by questioning the way the football program was proposed.

“I think it’s a little crazy that we’re going to be forced to pay a fee for our enjoyment,” he said. Sullivan again claimed that UNC Charlotte should be dependent on donors. He explained that usually donors fund football programs at college.

His explanation for how football programs are usually funded is not entirely accurate. When the idea to establish a football program at UNC Charlotte was first proposed, SGA disclosed the potential hike in student fees and polled students to find out if students would approve of the increase in tuition for the program.

Additionally, colleges like University of Texas at San Antonio, which will join the Conference USA league later this year alongside Charlotte 49ers, have funded their football programs in a similar manner.


Dealing with on-campus construction

Nails told the story of a UNC Charlotte alumnus from the 1980s he had recently met who jokingly implied that “UNCC” stood for “under new construction constantly.” He described this growth as “a beautiful thing.”

“We have so many areas we can expand on,” Nails said. “That’s why we’re so privileged. We need these new projects around campus. These parking decks will make life easier.”

The history major went on to say that we should channel more money into renovating the gym. Nails described having one gym for 25,000 plus students as a “numerical impossibility.”

Sullivan suggested minor renovations to Denny and Colvard and that SGA should be more focused with building student life than buildings.


Lowering crime on campus, both violent and nonviolent

Sullivan explained that UNC Charlotte students are fortunate to attend a university that not only has a safe campus but is also surrounded by safe communities. He also claims that there are “very few crimes each year” at UNC Charlotte.

However, there were three larcenies reported on campus on the day of the debate alone.

Further highlighting his libertarian beliefs, Sullivan explained that he didn’t plan to endorse any policy that restricted the liberties that are meant to increase safety such as one that would limit alcohol consumption on campus.

“Life is a risk itself. So if you don’t like it, it’s just tough luck in that regard,” Sullivan said.

Nails cited Police Chief Jeffrey Baker, who often calls the most common crimes on campus “crimes of opportunity,” meaning that students can sometimes make themselves vulnerable to theft by not carefully keeping up with their belongings.

Nails’ solution: more surveillance in the form of more campus police officers, though he doesn’t feel it’s entirely necessary.


Current Student Body President Conor Dugan’s reaction to the debate 

Former student body president candidates Stephen Belle Isle (left) and Conor Dugan (right) catch up before the debate. Photo by Barry Falls Jr.

After hearing both candidates explain what they would like to do as SGA officials, I asked Dugan if he felt either candidate spoke within the realms of what a student body president was capable of accomplishing.

“Not necessarily, no. A good amount of [the candidates’ platforms] weren’t exactly feasible,” Dugan said.

Dugan recalled his debate a year prior with his opponent, Stephen Belle Isle, where they experienced a similar fallacy. Neither candidate understood in what arena they would be able to operate within.

“Hearing them have the same debate that Stephen and I had, we were probably saying similar things if not the exact same thing,” he said.

Dugan feels that even if the candidates goals may seem unrealistic, it’s important to hear what the candidates believe is best for the student body even if it can’t be done.

Each candidate’s responses to the debate topics shed light on how much research they had done prior to the debate to better understand how UNC Charlotte could be improved.

Dugan had never met Sullivan prior to the debate and said he had little interaction with Nails. However, Dugan felt that after the debate, there was a clear front-runner.

Without specifying names, current Student Body President Dugan unofficially backed Nails as the better-suited candidate.

“I feel like one candidate was much more concise and clearly outline what he felt was an issue and a logical approach as well as explain his experience regarding that,” Dugan said of Nails’ experience as the president of the Interfraternity Council and as an orientation counselor.

“The other one, I couldn’t really get too much of a clear idea of what he was talking about for almost any of the questions. I had trouble following what he was saying. I feel, personally, he was just way more off the mark than the other candidate,” Dugan said of Sullivan, who had avoided giving specific plans for his term as student body president for much of the debate.

Dugan’s opponent from the 2012-13 election, Belle Isle, maintained a similar outlook.

Belle Isle also felt déjà vu watching this year’s debate. The engineering major saw himself in Sullivan and felt like Nails mirrored Dugan. Belle Isle feels like the results of this year’s election will reflect the parallels seen between Dugan and Nails, meaning Nails would come out on top.

Belle Isle believes Nails would make a better student body president and officially endorsed him.

I asked Dugan to sum up what advice he would like to give the next student body president in a short statement. He said that his replacement should strive to “be as dynamic and flexible as he can possibly be.”

According to Dugan, both candidates have a lot of ideas that will never see the light of day, but he shouldn’t allow that to discourage him.

“There is going to be new information that you’re going to find out every day. And you’re going to meet new networks of people. Where you can activate them based on something you just heard and have this entirely new initiative to start up. And if you get too locked into [your campaign promises], you’re going to find that that isn’t going to necessarily hold true for the entire year,” he said.

Students can cast their vote here now through Wednesday, March 27 until 5 p.m.


I bee-lieve: Bringing the Hornets back to Charlotte would restore identity to the franchise

The logo of the Charlotte Hornets (1988–2002)
The logo of the Charlotte Hornets (1988–2002)

I was walking around the UNC Charlotte campus the first week of the semester gazing at student after student sporting Charlotte Hornets gear (yes, the sports franchise that hasn’t existed in over a decade). I was as much nostalgic as I was confused.

So I decided to go on a mission. It was an hour and a half before my next class, and I wanted to see if I could find a single student wearing an article of Charlotte Bobcats attire. I walked counter-clockwise around the campus from the Student Union to the Cone Center to Storrs to Fretwell then back to the Student Union.

No luck. I managed to run into a handful more students with Charlotte Hornets tees and snap back hats, but no Bobcats merchandise. Somehow I wasn’t at all surprised. And that is in no way me bashing the Bobcats, despite the recent 18-game losing streak. I support any sports team that calls Charlotte home.

But maybe one reason attendance and merchandise sales for the Bobcats is at an all-time low for an NBA team is because we don’t connect the Bobcats to the city’s identity.  And it’s not just about nostalgia for “the good ol’ days.” It’s that it seems as if the Queen City that would rather pave over its history than embrace it.

For many Charlotteans, myself included, the Charlotte Hornets have played an important role in our lives. Even the sight of Hugo the Hornet (the team’s mascot) brings back memories from my childhood.

Every time my dad could find affordable tickets, he’d take me, my brother and any friends who could fit in my dad’s truck to most home games.  We’d sport our teal and purple tees. And if we didn’t go to the game with a Hugo the Hornet shirt or hat, we’d certainly leave with one.

Even for someone who wasn’t a huge sports fan, going to those games was something I looked forward to the most. I was a part of the hive. I felt a sense of community with the city and it cultivated a sense of wonderment in me for the history of Charlotte.

The Hornets’ name originated from the city’s resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War, prompting the British commander Lord Cornwallis to refer to it as “a veritable nest of hornets.”

The nickname stuck. Charlotte is still commonly referred to as the Hornet’s Nest. There are hornets nests on the city police badges and even most police cars.   The history is extensive, so it should come to no surprise that the New Orleans Hornets were as equally discontent with the franchise moving to their city.

The new owner Tom Benson has been dissatisfied with New Orleans’ use of the Hornets name since the very beginning, citing no cultural connection as his biggest objection. So starting later this year, New Orleans will begin playing as the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2013-2014 season.

With the Hornets name up for grabs, Charlotte is left with a $3 million decision to invest in an all-across-the-board rebranding or allow to the Bobcats franchise to rot in Charlotte.  $3 million might not seem like a lot until you compare it to the $125 million that was approved earlier this week for renovations to the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium.

To me the choice is simple: rebrand the franchise and bring back the sense of identity to the team that has been absent for years. The ends justify the economic means.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. The movement has continued to grow inside and outside the Queen City who want to restitch Hugo back into the fabric of Charlotte.

eventEarlier this month, a petition to rename the city’s NBA franchise reached 8,000 signatures and is still growing.

Last year, John Morgan, Scotty Kent and Evan Kent organized two “Swarm Time Warner” events where Hornets fans dressed in throwback attire and flooded on section of Time Warner to gain media attention and vocalize the desire for the rebranding.

The third Swarm Time Warner will take place this Saturday, where fans will once again demonstrate their passion.

Still, a recent conversation with a few peers presented a sense of indifference to the prospect of Charlotte Hornets 2.0.

“Rebranding won’t make us win more games,” was a less colorful version of one peer’s objection.

“It won’t be the same as it was ten years ago,” said another.

Both had valid points. And it was easy to see where  they were coming from. But there is a reason why so many Charlotte residents have jumped on the buzzwagon.

Bringing the franchise back to Charlotte would respark the energy that the Bobcats never garnered and in turn create a sustainable future for the team.

Secrets of successful alumni: How New Years resolutions can lead to post-graduation success

UNC Charlotte student writing his New Year resolutions on post-it notes/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr
UNC Charlotte student writing his New Year resolutions on post-it notes/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

The time has come for students to reflect on their previous semester and look ahead to the next; time to recognize shortcomings and make plans to prevent them from happening in the spring semester.  Chances are a lot of students on campus have made resolutions such as, “Spend more time in Atkins,” “Try to procrastinate less on class assignments” or “Make more time for the gym.”

More often than not, these resolutions do not last longer than a week or two. I talked to three UNC Charlotte alumni to get some perspective on New Year’s resolutions that UNC Charlotte students can make that will lead to success after graduation. This is what they had to say:


Rob McCormick Jr:

Develop your networking skills

McCormick calls his ability to network effectively one of the most important skills he began to develop in college.

“By networking, I mean building relationships across a wide range of areas both professionally and personally,” McCormick said.

With an unemployment rate of just under 8 percent, graduating students are facing a marginally improving, but bleak hiring environment. The young financing major stressed the need to use every resource available to secure the best opportunity you can find, before adding that networking is the best way to do that.

“There are volumes written on the subject,” he added. “But the number one take away is to remember that just like any good relationship, developing your network should be a two-way street. Once you learn how you can bring something new to the table to help others you will quickly see this being reciprocated.”

McCormick spoke from experience, adding that integrity and honesty are key to networking.

Rob McCormick left UNC Charlotte with a degree in financing and is now an investment banking analyst.


Adam Peter Shinn:

Find a balance

Shinn says finding balance in life overlooked the resolution.

“As we focus on our big goals, the main point is to not miss the forest for the trees,” Shinn says.

In Shinn’s personal life, he plans to continue expanding his business, without letting it conflict with his ability to maintain good health and start a family when the time is right. He suggests college students spend time for introspect, asking themselves: what makes me feel alive when I wake up everyday?

“For most adults, I guarantee it is either more than just money or not money at all. You go to college to learn how to make money and when you graduate, the only thing on your mind is getting the money you’ve never had before. When you recognize the mix of things that make you happy in life (other than money), you should try to avoid any goals that will encroach having those things.”

Adam Peter Shinn is currently a small business owner. He went to UNC Charlotte where he earned a master of business administration.

He intends to grow his business to a high level of profitability, while still having the flexibility to enjoy raising a family.


Brandon Kirkley:

Set attainable goals 

Brandon Kirkley believes making goals and setting yourself up with a realistic plan is instrumental to success.  Your life isn’t going to follow a mapped out route no matter what. But it’s good to have a plan and a way to guide where you’d like to see yourself go.

“You’re going to have to roll with the punches from time to time,” Kirkley said. “Having a driven, positive outlook and being assertive about what you want for yourself will keep your head up and looking forward.”

The young alumnus suggests writing down your goals on something large and putting them on your wall, making sure those close to you know your goals and asking them to hold you accountable.

“I’ve tried to do this for myself throughout college and to this day, and I fully believe it has positively shaped where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going,” he said.

Kirkley wrote down his 2013 resolutions the day before I spoke to him.

“They’re clearly stated and I’m going to make them happen.”

Brandon Kirkley earned a degree in communications with a minor in music.  He is currently the public communications specialist at UNC Charlotte as a lecturer of two digital media courses at UNC Charlotte.

Kirkley is also the lead singer of the southern pop-rock outfit, Brandon Kirkley and the Firecrackers and is set to perform this Friday, Jan. 11 at Norm’s.


Dave Craven’s early graduation leaves class president position temporarily vacant

Student Body President Conor Dugan leading an executive cabinet meeting/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

The sitting Senior Class President Dave Craven will be graduating this fall, leaving his position in the Student Government Association (SGA) temporarily vacant .

Labeled an “unprecedented situation” by members of SGA, Student Body President Conor Dugan said that “this puts [SGA] in an interesting position since we haven’t ever had to deal with this.”

Dugan wishes to see the position filled with someone who represents the students well and can effectively perform the responsibilities it requires.

According to SGA Press Secretary Jordan Stutts, SGA is looking for someone who has close connections with a large amount of students in the senior class with no prior leadership experience in SGA required.

The responsibilities associated with this position include:

  • representing the senior class
  • dealing with faculty and administration
  • serving as liaison between their class and SGA
  • attending executive cabinet meetings
  • presenting a report to Student Senate once a semester
  • establishing committees  that are necessary for the welfare of the senior class
  • chairing any class committee formed by Dugan

Applications are due December 4, 2012 and can be found here.

According to Stutts, SGA is working hard to ensure that issues like these do not arise in the future. SGA is in the process of implementing class councils that will be responsible for communicating more effectively with the campus community.


Paranormal Activity 4 offers too many gimmicks for too little payoff

Kathryn Newton as Alex in Paranormal Activity 4. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“All the activity has led to this,” reads the tagline of Paranormal Activity 4 (PA4). That tagline should have ended with, “departure from any form of engaging thrills.”

PA4 managed to transfer all of the cheap pop-out scares from previous PA flicks but without any of the indie charm. It marks the first Hollywood installment of the franchise made apparent by its generic character portrayal.

Watching the the first three films, I felt like I was watching real families being terrorized by a demon, which was an admittedly difficult feat to accomplish especially on the first film’s micro budget. With this sequel, I was uncomfortably aware of the fact that I was watching paid actors. Even Katie, who make an appearance in every movie (as an adult in 1,2 and 4 and a child in 3) seems to have slimmed down into a more Hollywood-looking figure.

The characters in PA4 are too generically attractive and it becomes distracting.  In the first three installments, the characters are exposed. They’re in their own homes, so there is no need to display themselves all prettied up. It’s a small detail that goes a long way for the films’ sense of realism that’s lost on PA4.

The dialogue is not a strong point for the movie either. “What the f—-?” is uttered about a dozen times. This may have been an attempt to give the series a more modern vibe. But to me this was taking the easy way out. When something terrifying happens, it’s the actors’ jobs to show this with facial expressions and body language. This seemed to be substituted with a dumbed down vocal expression of surprise.

I also found myself growing tired of the same locations throughout the movie. Whereas the set helped contribute itself to the plot in previous installments, PA4 did not make very good use of its minimalist environment.

PA4 does manage to bring a few good ideas to the table.

Female lead Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) are likable characters. Alex is caring and endearingly bashful. When her boyfriend puts his hand on her thigh, she shies away. But when her family members are in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go try to rescue them. Ben shows typical teenage hormonal tendencies without being too pushy.

It also made good use of more modern technology. Much of the film took place on Alex’s webcam.

Unfortunately, that is where the modern innovation ended. “Why don’t we upload this to YouTube,” Ben asks when they first catch a supernatural occurrence on camera. This is never answered – an opportunity to be creative squandered. PA4 had the potential to do something meta.

Writer Zack Estrin did seem concerned with carrying over some of the motifs of the third (and best) installment of Paranormal Activity, though he did so ineffectively. Yes, the circle-inside-triangle mark is mentioned. So is the evil entity (who for some reason is never called by his name, Toby) who whispers malicious things to the young characters. But they are brought up in the blandest manner possible.

The gimmick-filled storyline grew more and more predictable as it progressed. Too often did I find myself accurately predicting what was going to happen next in the plot sequence, and I’m not very good at doing that.

Ultimately, PA4 raised more questions than it answered. For one, why does every house have several chandeliers in them? Rattling light fixtures has been done many times before and in better ways.

Secondly, we know that the family is recording the soccer game at the beginning of the movie, but why does the main protagonist continue with the camcorder after that? Yes, this is the structure of the series. But the audience still needs to know why they happen to have their cameras out recording everything.

Thirdy, why bring up the plot’s domestic disputes if it doesn’t go anywhere? Not every suburban family has to be bogged down with dramatized first-world problems. Alex mentions her parents have been fighting a little without acknowledging it. But really, nobody cares when we are given no reason to empathize with the parental characters to begin with.

PA4 offers very little in terms of scares in its brief climax and marks a complete departure from the situational thrills that made the first three films effective.

“I could have stayed home and watched American Horror Story,” I overheard someone saying as she left the theater.

I couldn’t have summed up my reaction any better.

ELECTION 2012: Candidates get fiesty at the second debate, students react

Apathy 2012

Less than one week ago, I walked around the Student Union speaking to students about who they were planning on voting for this election season.

[You can read it here]

And there seemed to be a consistent theme– apathy. Most of the students were either not willing to speak about their political views out of fear of coming off as unintelligent or they did not care enough to vote.

Fast-forward a week later and I wanted to see if much had changed. I spoke to marketing major David Jordan right outside the Student Union Theater after a screening of the debates in the theater.

We talked about this event (which he had planned) in the theater to get students engaged with the debates. The debate screening was the last event of his series on this season’s election.

Jordan seemed a bit frustrated by how little UNC Charlotte students care about the election.

“I advertised the debate screening during the movies, but students are so apathetic to do anything political-wise,” he said. There were a little less than ten people present in the theater that night. On any night when the Student Union screens a hollywood movie, the theater is almost full.

Although Jordan’s work prevented him from talking to me about how he felt the debates went, I managed to have individual conversations with the students who attended the screening as they were filtering out.

Here’s what they had to say:


Jared Ross/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Jared Ross 

Political Science Major


Ross gave the advantage to President Barack Obama, citing that he felt that the moderator had to police Mitt Romney’s rhetoric more closely.

As I spoke to UNC Charlotte students, many of them made strong indications that they had made character judgements on the way the two presidential candidates treated the moderator.

Ross went on the express a concern that moderator may have shown favortism toward Obama.

This seemed particularly evident when the two candidates argued over what Obama had said regarding the terror attacks in Libya.


Meghan Osler/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Meghan Osler

Biology Major


Osler gave the debate to Obama.

“He followed Biden’s lead from the vice presidential debates last week. And he was a lot more aggressive,” she said.

She also applauded the president’s willingness to “call out” Mitt Romney on some of the statements that he made that may not have been consistent with previous statements.

Olser explained that she was unhappy with the way Romney often avoided the questions at hand.

I asked her if she felt that Obama did the same thing. She replied that he may have, but not as often and deliberately as Romney.


Nan Nguyen/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Nan Nguyen

Economics Major


Nguyen called night two a draw, after admitting that Romney won the first debate.

The economics major feels that Obama has experience on his side and that while Romney may make radical campaign claims, he might not be able to live up to them if he is elected president.

Nguyen did mention that Obama’s policies and actions the past four years did not reflect some of the promises he made this season. But he feels that Obama may be more proactive if given a second term.

Nguyen acknowledged that both candidates were trying their best to appeal to the middle class.


Jenniffer Gladu/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Jenniffer Gladu

Accounting Major


Gladu described the second presidential debate as a draw. She admitted that Obama had improved his rhetoric tremendously from the previous debate.

She believes that Obama is a very effective speaker, but she didn’t feel that this had come out in the first debate.

Gladu explained that the Democratic candidate was more aggressive the second debate.

Many students who I have spoken to this election season have seemed more focused on the way the two candidates compose themselves in the debates more than the content of their words.

ELECTION 2012: Students stand behind their candidates

I stood in the middle of the Student Union last weekend eager to find out what presidential candidate students were voting for this election season.

With two leaders with two very different sets of values, I expected a frenzy of students ready to chime off on their election decision.

This wasn’t the case at all.

Only about one or two out of every ten students I surveyed were willing to tell me about who they were planning to vote for.

Of those who did not want to talk to me about their candidate of choice, most seemed too apathetic to vote while the rest claimed they were not knowledgable enough on the subject to give their perspective.

“Sorry, I’m not a political person. I know I’ll sound dumb,” was a common answer I heard.

An even more common answer was that the student had no intentions of voting at all.

“Do you feel like a single vote matters?” I asked.

Students usually hesitated before answering that they did believe that their vote counted. But they struggled to see beyond the campaign ads to what the candidates really stood for.

An honest enough answer, and certainly an understandable one.

More money has been spent on ads this election season than in any season past.

With most of them being attack ads, it has become easy for students to pick apart where candidates have fallen short but slightly more difficult to strip their values to the core for a more candid analysis.

When I asked the undecided voters what they planned to do before election day to help them choose which candidate to vote for, many explained that they would pay attention to the upcoming debates.

The next debate will be Tuesday Oct. 16 at 9:00 p.m.



Asia Cammack/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Asia Cammack 

Business Major 


Cammack feels that President Barack Obama’s rhetoric seems to be in the best interest of college students and the middle class, both of which Cammack identifies with.

She went on to say that she has nothing against Mitt Romney, but she doesn’t believe that she shares his values.




Wilson Carter/ Photo Barry Falls Jr

Wilson Carter

Business Major


Carter knows the stigma associated with not voting all too well. When he tells people he isn’t voting, they usually don’t hesitate to voice their disapproval– I watched this happen when I asked him if he would speak to me for an article.

“But why vote for someone you don’t believe in?”




John Walson

Civil Engineer Major


Walson is not particularly pleased with either candidate. He explained that he hasn’t noticed much consistency in rhetoric, especially with Mitt Romney.

Although Walson feels that each candidate has the nation’s best interest in mind, he feels that they’ll say whatever will get themselves elected.



Evan Wardrop 

Financing Major


Work experience is a key factor for Wardrop this election season. And according to the Chief of Staff of the Student Government Association, Romney is the one who has it.

Wardrop also noted Romney’s economic success as Massachusetts governor as an important factor.



Kristina Drye

International Studies/ International Relations Major


“I feel like Obama embodies the 100 percent of America,” Drye said.

Drye was the first one I spoke to who seemed confident with her decision. While she admits that she may not always believe in the Obama administration’s fiscal policies, she puts human rights first.

Plans underway to make McColl-Richardson Field a zero-waste stadium

The McColl-Richardson Field/ Photo by Chris Crews

As if students needed any more reasons to be excited about UNC Charlotte Football kick-off Aug. 31, 2013, there may be another big one for students and faculty concerned about the environmental impact of a stadium this large.

While the plans are currently in their early stages, ideas to make the McColl-Richardson Field a completely zero-waste facility are in the works, UNC Charlotte Secretary for Sustainability Ellen Payne spoke of during a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 25, with the Student Government Association Executive Cabinet.

The petition for the zero-waste stadium was already passed through the student senate. The wheels will not be put into motion for official planning once UNC Charlotte gains full ownership of the stadium, which Payne explained should be late October to early November.

The new stadium may provide compost and recycling bins. Students will be permitted to bring in empty water containers, but no other items.

Eco-friendly water fountains found around campus/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Payne wants to assure that the fountains in the new stadium embrace features that allow stadium visitors to use a secondary water-spout similar to many of the water fountains that are located around the university’s campus.

These spouts are specifically designed to encourage students to refill their water bottles by allowing them to place their bottle on an upper level of the fountain, using laser sensory that will automatically fill the bottle up without spilling.

The Charlotte Green Initiative (CGI) will be funding the water-bottle stations. CGI’s budget comes from every student at UNC Charlotte enrolled in 12 or more credit hours.  Each one of these students pays $1 towards the green fund.

This created the 2012 budget of about $104,052. Payne expects the CGI to fund about eight water fountains, which will cost about $20,000 total.

Right now, there are already water fountains installed in the building. But they are neither chilled nor the ones that are used to fill up bottles, which Payne feels will encourage students to be more eco-friendly.

Additionally, venders at each game, which is currently only Chartwells Dining and Barnes and Noble, will be required to use only products such as plates and utensils that produce a waste that is either compostable or recyclable (called ecoware).

Staff would be trained to inform students about which items belong in the trash can, the recycling bin or the compost bin, which may also give the university the chance to educate students about how to be more eco-conscious.

“Every initiative that we do, I want there to be an educational side to them,” Payne said.

One eco-friendly initiative involves selling UNC Charlotte “game day” cups that can be re-used at home or recycled. This will potentially boost Chartwell sales and create less waste.

Another idea involves students from nearby Charlotte high schools volunteering to help with the recycling efforts after games with the incentive of being able to go to the game for free, which is something that Ohio State University does.

“This idea may seem farfetched,” Payne said. “But many other big universities use this ordinance, Ohio State being one of them. I think it’s realistic for UNC Charlotte to implement this, especially before the stadium is even open.”

The phrasing “zero-waste” can be misleading to some. To Ohio State, “zero waste” means having most materials recycled, a smaller percentage composted and less than 10 percent trashed and taken to landfills. But Payne may want that last percentage to slim down to zero.

But how farfetched is the idea? The concept is relatively new; Ohio State just made its stadium zero-waste last year. It all began by people in the community voicing their concerns about the environmental impact the Ohio State stadium had.

Staffers of Time Warner Cable Arena (TWCA) in Charlotte already understand that there are no shortages of green initiative advocates in the Queen City, which is why the arena already implements a set of similar (if not exactly the same) green initiatives.


Green initiatives implemented  at Time Warner Cable Arena include:

• All building lights at TWCA are controlled with a low voltage control system, allowing lighting groups to be controlled at specific times and usage.

• Currently, chemicals being used to clean surfaces in the arena are approximately 85 percent green or green certified, with a goal of becoming 100 percent green.

• All food service areas use earth-friendly plates, bowls, napkins and utensils. Free range organic chicken and grass fed beef is used, all food items are free of any trans fat and the zero-trans fat fryer oil utilized in food is recycled after each use.


Payne wants this on a similar scale for the UNC Charlotte football stadium, and she doesn’t think the costs will out-weigh the benefits in the long run in terms of energy savings and minimal environmental impact.

“The zero-waste stadium is an awesome idea that I hope excites people as much as it does me,” said Payne.

Payne will continue to meet with officials in charge of maintaining the stadium in weeks to come to make sure officials know that a zero-waste initiative is something that the student body wants. The next big step is to meet with Chartwells to discuss plans on creating recyclable and compostable goods.

Though the focus remains on the environmental impact of the stadium, Payne explained it made financial sense.

“Although it is green and it is good for the environment, it also saves money. Initially it is going to cost a lot. But down the line, you’re saving money and resources,” Payne said.  “[We would be] making compost, instead of sending everything to the landfill. It’s not just green, there is a sustainable economic side to it all.”

Payne believes that this will be the ideal opportunity to show the community that UNC Charlotte cares about the environment. It may lead to other departments at UNC Charlotte following this example and working to become more eco-friendly. Payne sees the Student Activity Center becoming no-waste eventually.

According to Payne, it all starts with students showing that they care enough to see these initiatives happen.

Secretary of Sustainability Ellen Payne edits documents and plans for the upcoming Sustainability Week on the UNC Charlotte campus/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

Fourth annual 49ers For Life Blood Drive aims to break state record

Print correction: Due to a scheduling conflict, the Fourth Annual UNC Charlotte 49ers for Life Blood Drive has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22 from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Student Activity Center.

Last year at the third annual 49ers for Life Blood Drive, many students, faculty, staff and members of the community stopped by to donate blood. FILE PHOTO


The initial planning for the 4th Annual 49ers for Life Blood Drive begins next week, and those in charge of organizing the blood drive have high hopes of collecting more blood than any year prior.

According Secretary for Academic Affairs Adam King, the annual blood drive has grown over the past few years into an important event on campus that unites the student body as one community.

“Not only is the Red Cross always in crucial need of blood,” said King. “This is becoming a tradition at our university.”
While the collecting does not begin until mid-January, planners have begun calling on student organizations on campus to show their support.

The planning committee is looking for volunteers to help with logistics, entertainment, marketing, volunteer coordination and recruitment.

A vast array of student organizations are needed to pitch in, as each group brings something unique to the table.
For example, some clubs and organizations have been known to use their connections with restaurants in Charlotte to donate food for the day of the blood drive or goods for the blood drive raffle.

Organizations can also use the opportunity to meet their service requirements.

According to King, planning begins early so that the Red Cross can determine how many donors to anticipate so they can send workers and resources accordingly.

King is hoping to break the record for the most blood collected in one day in North Carolina, which is currently held by Appalachian State with 1,316 units of blood.

Appalachian State beat their own record last week which was just a little over 1,200 units collected in one day.

Last year, UNC Charlotte collected 874 units of blood in one year with the help of about 40-5o campus organizations. This year the planning committee has set a goal of 900 units.

The initial planning meeting will be on Thursday, Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m. at Student Union 265. This meeting will be open to the entire community- faculty, staff and both graduate and undergraduate students.


Slideshow: The Weenie Roast returns

Flogging Molly/ Photos by Barry Falls Jr

When 1065 The End decided to bring The Weenie Roast back this year, they brought it back in a way that made Charlotteans remember why they missed it so much in the first place.

With two stages and an autograph tent at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater last Sunday Sept. 16, the music festival brought some of the biggest acts spanning various genres that helped shaped the music scene in the 90s. 

Most bands performed to promote a recently-released album or an album that is getting ready to hit the shelves, to reaffirm their musical relevance. 

Evans Blue (on the side stage) and Our Lady Peace performed at this year’s Weenie Roast. Both are rooted in Canada, but give vastly different musical styles. Foxy Shazam (on the side stage) and Flogging Molly brought untamed energy to the stage, justifying their passionate following. And The Offspring and Garbage demonstrated why they were some of the most beloved punk acts a decade ago.



The career path of Garbage has strangely and coincidentally grown alongside the progression of The Weenie Roast. Both went on hiatus in seven years ago, until this year.

The Wisconsin-based group released their new album “Not Your Kind of People” to positive reception. And according to many Weenie Roasters this year, it was the primary act that many came to see.

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Flogging Molly

“Why are so many people here wearing green?” I overheard into the evening.

“They’re here for Flogging Molly,” was a common response.

The Celtic eight-piece brought a lively folk rock set to an eager crowd of fans performing songs like “Speed of Darkness” from their newest album of the same title.

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Our Lady Peace

This 90’s gem has not come to Charlotte in eight years. And in case you’re wondering, yes they played the hits.

In addition to singles like “One Many Arm,” “Innocent,” “Clumsy” and “Somewhere Out There,” the Canadian alt rock band played songs like like “As Fast As You Can” from their newest album “Curve” released last April.

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The Grammy-award winning pop rock outfit performed one of the more energetic sets of the night. Coming out into the crowd and onto the lawn, lead singer Jon Foreman performed an extended-version of “Dare You to Move.”

Also on the set list was singles like “Meant to Live” and “Mess of Me.” Their new seven-track EP “Vice Re-Verses” was released last April.

The band also performed a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” in honor of founding member Adam Yauch (also known as MCA) who died of cancer earlier this year.

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This Florida-based band loves Charlotte. The last time they were in Charlotte was last year when they performed at Amos’ Southend alongside Circa Survive.

Anberlin performed hits like “We Owe This to Ourselves” and “Feel Good Drag.” Their sixth studio album “Vital” is set to release this October.

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Coheed & Cambria

If I had to pick the best progressive rock band that produces albums based on comic books written by the lead singer which are then performed in falsetto, I’d have to pick Coheed & Cambria.

The band has developed a massive cult following, many of whom reside in Charlotte.

Claudio Sanchez took to the stage to a thundering applause before playing into “No World For Tomorrow.” Legend has it that there is a person under that orbiting sphere of hair.

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Eve 6

If you don’t know the band by its name, you probably know them by their singles like “Inside Out” and “Here’s to the Night” that frequented the airwaves through the late 90s and into this century.

The band released their fourth studio album “Speak in Code” (their first in nine years) last April.

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Highlights from the DNC: The world’s introduction to Charlotte

President Barack Obama addresses the crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena at the 2012 Democratic National Convention Center in Uptown Charlotte/ Photo by Barry Falls Jr

From the opening festivities of CarolinaFest to the acceptance speech given by President Barack Obama for the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC), the Queen City was launched into the spotlight  for what Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx called “the world’s introduction to Charlotte.”

Charlotte played host to several rallies and protests from various concerned communities  from around the nation, controversial speakers and the most media coverage in Charlotte history. The Queen City had its moment in the spotlight and we made it count.


Michelle, other delegates speak from the heart

Family, cooperation and the American dream were reoccurring themes throughout the DNC last week.

Those who watched the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa a week prior heard a lot of Obama-bashing that many in the media felt was distracting to their message. The people in charge of the Democratic convention were not planning to make the same mistake. From the start, they announced plans for their speakers to “speak from the heart” and express a message of equality.

In fact most of the speeches seemed to follow a formula. Firstly, speakers would discuss their personal history struggling with a dysfunctional part of the American system. That would lead into how the Obama campaign helped to alleviate the problem for them and the community that was also struggling with the same issue.

The most dynamic and personal story about our 44th president came from First Lady Michelle Obama on the first night of the convention. Garnering excitement from the crowd of approximately 20,000 attendees, Michelle gave a personal account of the life events that led to President Obama’s decision to add certain policies to his platform.

The self-proclaimed “mom-in-chief” explained that she and her husband could only attend college with the help of student aid. Instead of attacks to the Republican platform, she gave a very emotional account of her experience of college.

According to Mrs. Obama, this has motivated the president to increase financial aid so students are not overwhelmed with debt come graduation.

“So, in the end for Barack these issues are not political, they’re personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles,” said the First Lady. “He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American dream because he’s lived it.”


Women’s health and more benefits for the middle class

An advantage of taking place shortly after the RNC is that the Democrats have the opportunity to push back against some of the rhetoric given by their opposing party.

They did just that.

The Republican party used their convention to address the issues of tax plans for the middle class and women’s health. Both issues on the Republican platform were announced with controversial reception.

Despite the more recent Obama attack ads on Mitt Romney, the Republican platform supports women’s right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest or in cases where the mother may be harmed.

The Democratic party used the convention to attack the Republican party at times and explain their views that all women have the right to make decisions about their bodies, even in  cases of abortion. Both parties continued to make exaggerations about the people’s stance on women’s health. The truth remains that there are Democrats, Republicans, men and women on both the pro-life and pro-choice sides.

Joining in with many other Democratic delegates, Vice President Joe Biden criticized Romney for wanting to raise taxes on the middle class.

“I will not raise taxes on the middle class,” Romney said a week prior to the DNC at the Republican convention.

Both parties could benefit from keeping a fact-checker close by in the future.


Protesters fail to make an impact

Convention attendees are sure to have seen at least one of the many protests scattered across Uptown.  But chances are they watched unsure of who was leading them or what their purposes seemed to be.

Seemingly without warning, protests would begin to form around the convention area. Police forces would form around them just as quickly.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Planned Parenthood Rally congregated at the intersection of South College and Fifth for women’s health rights.

About a hundred protesters met at one corner of the street and began chanting and waving pro-choice signs, as pro-life protesters were scattered around the other three corners of the intersection.

Within minutes, the large number or protesters were quickly met with an equally large number of police forces, shoving their way onto the scene with batons and large protective vests and immediately wrapping around the group of protesters like a shell.

Later on, the police led the protesters down the street where they wouldn’t be in the way of delegates who tried to get to the Time Warner Cable Arena until the rally slowly dispersed.

A similar scenario occurred with the Occupy protesters among other protest groups.


Was Clinton’s speech the clincher for the campaign? 

Former President Bill Clinton may have earned a law degree from Yale, but he may have brought something entirely different to the campaign table: simple math.

Four years ago, former President Bill Clinton was campaining alongside former First Lady Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

One week ago, he officially named Obama his party’s nomination for the 2012 election. And according to the reception from the audience (which meritted 105 cheers and 33 laughs, far more than Romney’s acceptance speech) and the media, he nailed it.

One Niner Times reporter noted that Clinton had barely made use of the teleprompter as he eloquently ad libbed much of his speech.

Equal opportunity and economic empowerment were key components to the socioeconomic status of the U.S. that Clinton claims the Democrats empower while Republicans surpress.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell went on record saying when Obama was elected the number one Republican priority should have been to deny Obama a second term.

According to Clinton, this sentiment has prevented policy-makers from making decisions together in the public interest.

But Clinton gave credit where credit was due, applauding former President George W. Bush for supporting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has saved millions of people in third-world countries.

On Wednesday night, President Clinton introduced America to something that seemed completely absent this entire election season, concrete plans and specific numbers.

Both he and President Obama had criticised Romney for failing to specify details of his economic plan for America if he were elected.

After Clinton’s speech, many media outlets were quick to give him the new title of “Explainer-in-Chief.” According to, Clinton’s speech was almost completely void of any false statements with the exception of his overselling of Obamacare.

Prior to both conventions, poll results had Romney and Obama at a close tie. After the events of the DNC, the Democratic party may see a gradual shift of supporters in their favor.

The First Lady speaks about family, responsibility and making college affordable

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to exuberant crowds Tuesday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena. Photo by Haley Twist

Stepping onto the stage to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” the First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave an enthusiastic family-themed speech on Tuesday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena for the Democratic Nation Convention (DNC).

Prefacing her speech was a brief compilation of her rhetoric and a history of her role in the Obama campaign televised on the arena’s stage screen.

In the video, Mrs. Obama stresses the importance of her family and the key role her mother had in her decision to pursue a college education.

According to the First Lady, her mother did not pressure her to pursue a certain degree, but encouraged her to receive one. Even before the last DNC, Mrs. Obama has held a multi-dimensional role in Democratic Party, sometimes separate from her husband.

Apart from education reform, Mrs. Obama has eld campaigns designed to end childhood obesity and support American health in general. The First Lady created “Let’s Move,” which was designed to make exercise more engaging.

But one key point that she emphasized was how essential her college education was in shaping her life and the way she and Barack raise their children.

“When it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could’ve attended college without financial aid,” she said.

According to Mrs. Obama, their combined monthly student loan bills were higher than their mortgage.

“We were so young, so in love and so in debt,” she joked.

She explained that this led to Barack’s decision to increase student aid and keep interest rates down, so that students can attend college without a mountain of debt.

“So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political– they’re personal,” she said. “Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles.

“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like or who we love,” she said.

Her actions seem to echo the same passion that Barack had displayed through the campaign trail.

Earlier that morning, Mrs. Obama dialed in to speak with thousands of American college students for a college press phone conference, including Niner Times staff members.

“I wanted to make sure that I took the time out to talk with all of you, because even on a big day like this I wanted to make sure that I was connecting with some of who we consider our biggest supporters,” she said.

The phone conference was the first step in addressing the crowds on Tuesday with every move leading up to her speech in the Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday night.

As the First Lady has expressed before, the process of paying back college loans is a problem that she has experienced firsthand.

“Even with all those loans we can look back and see that we’re the way we are today because of the opportunities that our education gave us,” she said. “Education was the key to everything that we’ve been able to do as adults.”

She shared a personal story about President Obama and herself paying off college loans just eight years earlier before urging students to make sure that their peers were registered to vote.

“We know that young people and new voters like many of you are the ones who could put this election over the top,” she said.

While she stressed the importance of education and the government’s responsibility to help students pay for tuition, she failed to mention how the Obama administration would assure that students get jobs once they graduate, a growing problem for many young people.

With time between now and election day, there is still time for the Obama and Romney campaigns to better eleaborate on how they plan to assist students with paying for college and finding jobs.

“When it comes to making college affordable, Barack’s got your back,” Mrs. Obama said.

Democratic National Convention CEO: we want to celebrate students getting involved

Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx gives various media outlets quotes and information. Photo by Barry Falls Jr

The morning of August 31, Democratic National Convention Center (DNC) officials unveiled the state-of-the-art convention podium stage at the Charlotte Bobcats home- Time Warner Cable Arena.

The speakers at the podium unveiling were Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Stephen Kerrigan, Chief Operating Officer Theo LeCompte and Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx.

Also present were 9 students from the North Carolina School for the Deaf who had to opportunity to tour the arena early and communicate with the convention officials involved with putting it together.

The convention stage is oriented in an end-zone configuration which maximizes seating in the convention hall and will require fewer modifications to the arena than to previous convention venues. Suites in the arena were converted into broadcast hubs for major television networks, many of which were present for the presentation.

The podium itself will soon serve as a platform for First Lady Michelle Obama, San Antonia Mayor Julian Castro, former president Bill Clinton, President of the United States Barrack Obama and Vice President Biden starting next Tuesday September 4th.

According to Mayor Foxx, the arena construction and the Democratic National Convention in general was mostly made possible by Charlotteans; LeCompte’s more technical details of the construction echoed this sentiment.

“Most of the work that transformed this arena into a world-class convention hall was done by local companies and local workers,” Foxx said. “Their first class work will be seen by millions of people across the world.”

College students were also an important topic during the unveiling.

During a brief question-and-answer session with various media outlets, Karrigan was asked how he planned to engage young people in the national convention.

“We all know young people don’t necessarily sit in front of the television watching network news, so we’ve been working on those eight digital media platforms to engage [young people],” Karrigan said.

A major priority for convention officials will be to broadcast the DNC in a way that will make this convention the most accessible and public Democratic National Convention in history. According to Karrigan, technology plays a key role.

“Rather than making it incumbent to find us to give [young people] our message, we go to them wherever they get their news, however they access it,” Karrigan said. “However they choose to engage, we just want to celebrate that they’re engaging. And celebrate that young people are getting involved.”

The DNC is an event that matters to college students both in Charlotte and around the U.S., many of whom who will be voting for the first time this election season.


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Wartime artist sketches Niners in the crowd

Bates sits in the atrium of the Student Union sketching UNC Charlotte education major Rachel Mode. This particular picture took 35 minutes to sketch. Photo by Barry Falls Jr.

In late July, I met with UNC Charlotte sophomore art major Robert Bates in the Student Union to watch him in action: sketching students on campus.

We exchanged greetings and a handshake and he began scouting out a student in the Union. He spotted UNC Charlotte education major Rachel Mode sitting in the middle of the atrium area.

He immediately walked up to her and asked if it was ok if he sketched a picture of her. She nodded aloofly as if she didn’t seem to understand the question.

Bates sat down across from Mode, taking out a large black sketch pad and a few graphite pencils from a “Toy Story” zip-lock bag and began the outline.  As Bates continued sketching Mode, a conversation developed. Organically, the young Marine made a connection with his art subject, and they began to talk about Bates’ history with the Marines and the role art plays in his life.

About five minutes into the conversation, Mode looked in my direction as I snapped pictures and took notes.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m a reporter doing a story on Mr. Bates,” I said, trying to avoid joining into the conversation. I was just there to watch.

“Oh, what is so newsworthy about him?” she said.

While certainly not a hard question to answer, it was difficult to know where to begin.

Bates did eight years in the Marine infantry, along with three deployments. Two of those tours were to Afghanistan, where he served in the capacity of  team leader, squad leader and war artist. According to Bates, he would sketch as often as his billet would allow him.

“The sketches serve as my personal eye witness account of the war in Afghanistan,” Bates said. “I documented Marines relaxing on their downtime, standing post, on patrol, enemy prisoners of war in captivity, gun trucks destroyed by improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.) and hellfire missile strikes. You know, just another day at the office.”

Since then, his art has been featured across the states. Several of Bates’ works, particularly sketches of firsthand accounts from Afghanistan, are part of the permanent combat art collection at the National Museum of the Marine Corp.

In addition, his work chronicling the experiences of wounded U.S. troops in recovery is a part of an artist documentation of the wars for the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

I gave Mode a shortened version of this as Bates continued to sketch her.

I asked about what was going through Bates’ mind as he sketched. He told me that he sometimes gets bored drawing the same typical angles of people and that he enjoyed finding a unique angle to sketch students.

According to the artist there has been a large gap over the summer between his classes and his shift at work. This is when he sits down, often times in the Student Union to draw candid scenes of students on campus socializing or studying.

Bates typically sketches his subjects at a fairly rapid pace: usually within 15-20 minutes, depending on how often that person shifts around. As far as finished work goes, Bates admits that they are usually complete within one day to several months.

After this drawing was complete, Bates and Mode exchanged a few final remarks, a few nice-to-meet-yous, and we walked away.

The conversation continued as he tells me more about how these interactions typically went. While in this instance the subject knew she was being sketched, Bates says that they only know about half the time.

“Sometimes I like to keep it ambiguous,” he says about his often spontaneous sketches he completes on campus.

However as he explained, this wasn’t the case for the showcase he organized earlier this year. Alongside three other artists, Bates put together “The Joe Bonham Project” on the UNC Charlotte campus.

A drawing Bates did of Sgt. Jacks, who lost his leg in Afghanistan to an improvised explosive device in 2011. Photo courtesy of Robert Bates

Bates had spent time documenting the struggles of recovering Marines in hospitals beds.

Through this experience a gallery was formed that helped produce a sobering image of the reality of war, such as the piece shown below.

According to Bates, it was something that he had wanted to make public to UNC Charlotte from the very beginning.

“Chronicling the recovery process of wounded Soldiers and Marines by telling their stories through art is an amazing experience,” Bates said. “The exhibit caught the attention of not only the school but several newspapers and local TV stations.”

Through “The Joe Bonham Project” the artists involved left a lasting impression on visitors of wounded troops whose stories might have gone untold otherwise.

I asked Bates if he planned to revisit the idea of sketching injured Marines somewhere down the line.

“Revisit? Hell, I’m still actively engaged in it,” he said.

Bates uses art for personal healing as well. He admits that the transition from Marine life to life as a student and employee on campus has not always been a smooth one.  Roughly 7% of the Marines experience  post-traumatic stress disorder three months after coming home. Bates is one of them. According to the young illustrator, he continues to use art to manage this.

“Hours after my vehicle took a direct hit from an enemy placed I.E.D., I immediately turned to art,” Bates said.  “I continued to pump out sketches there, and I’ll continue to pump them out here. Not only does it help me heal, it also helps others heal, too. It’s a two-for-one deal.”

Bates plans to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree in illustration.  He hopes to gain experience teaching art at a high school level before shifting to a University classroom.

In the meantime, expect Bates’ work to be featured frequently in the Niner Times.