Brittany Wilson

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I am a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying Political Science, Communications, and Journalism. Aside from my role as a staff Opinion section writer for the Niner Times, I find joy in playing an active role in my campus and community. Often I can be found volunteering my time to causes that I am passionate about. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a career in political journalism and libertarian activism in Washington, DC.

Op-Ed: Fifteen Years Later

Another Sept. 11 has passed, and in its harrowing wake terrorism has once again taken the forefront of evening news and dinner table conversation.

Each year this day holds an especially tender place in my heart. I was a New Yorker, my father worked for law enforcement, though I was only a kindergardener, the attack had a markedly profound impact on my life. I have essentially spent all of my formative years trying to make sense of it all, trying to take something away from it.

This year personal obligations prevented me from tuning in to the 9/11 news specials, media coverage and reflection services, but alas, I knew what would happen anyway.

In one breath, grey-haired politicians would address a lachrymose crowd, asking them to put their hands over their hearts and pray for the fallen. In their next, they would use these casualties to advance a self-serving and highly damaging interventionist foreign policy. Following, policy makers from both sides of the aisle, with a swoop of a pen, would pass legislation that would take away civil liberties from the well-meaning public under the guise of patriotism and for a false sense of security. Isn’t that always the way it works in these United States?

Fifteen years later, countless lives have been affected. Families have been torn apart and entire cities have been destroyed. What do we have to show for their sacrifice?

If there’s one thing these past years should have taught us, it’s fear is perplexingly addicting. Patriotism is misleading. Violence and terrorism have a concerning way of scaring us into voluntarily forfeiting our freedom.

Post-Sept.11 fear has resulted in a war in which everyone has lost. It has resulted in a corrosion of our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and a Patriot Act which ironically is the least patriotic thing our country could have done. These actions have garnered ambiguous hate for largely peaceful religions and cultures. And though our people have largely become more hostile and our country has become more interventionist in exchange for a sense of security, we have not become more safe.

If you’re reading this, I challenge you not to play into the media’s narrative which is set with purpose by self-serving politicians in order to take our liberties. When they say we must expand our influence, I challenge you to advocate a peaceful and non-interventionist foreign policy approach. When they espouse hate toward any broad group of human beings, I challenge you to love. When they say we must sacrifice our freedom for security (or really essentially anything else), I challenge you to stand by your liberty.

Love people. Seek truth. Be brave. Protect the rights we are so lucky to have here in America and set such a great example for the rest of the world.

This is how we honor the fallen.

A student participates in the September 11 memorial event across from the Student Union. Photo via Leysha Caraballo.
A student participates in the September 11 memorial event across from the Student Union. Photo via Leysha Caraballo.

Op-Ed: Free Speech Culture in the Classroom

A state of cognitive dissonance.

College campuses have long been the birthplace of revolutionary social and political change. From the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement, students have led the way, engaging with ideas that were largely controversial, giving a platform for rational discourse, and creating immense societal value as a result.

It is no coincidence that students are the leaders of these movements. College, by its very nature, is designed to give students a platform to challenge norms, expound upon controversial topics, and grow intellectually. And this culture should start in the classroom.

For this reason, as I stepped onto UNC Charlotte’s campus in the Fall of 2013, I was most excited about the deep conversations I would have with classmates about political theory and current events. I expected to be greeted by other students who wanted to engage in a similar forum of open debate and professors that would value the opinions of their students and give them a platform for ideological inquiry.

I couldn’t have been more enthralled by the allure of the college experience and the culture of free speech that accompanied it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The unfortunate truth is that America’s higher institutions of learning have become extremely hostile towards these ideals that they once championed. It seems as though America’s most coddled generation would happily trade in their First Amendment right of free speech for trigger warnings, safe spaces, and parental policies.

 

The right to speak freely is the right to offend.

I don’t want things which offend me to have power over me. This means that I must use my intellect to distance myself from the emotion of the argument. This means that I must view the argument in such a way that I can gain some insight from it, regardless of whether I agree with it or not, whether the argument is right or wrong, whether the argument is just or unjust.

There is truly something that can be gained from all arguments, even offensive ones. It is inevitable that some speech students encounter will be foreign, uncomfortable, offensive, and wrong. These situations are a perfect opportunity for open and honest discussion. Modern classroom culture has made it especially difficult to have these conversations, though.

With this being said, I believe that it’s important to make a distinction between the endorsement of the right of free speech and the speech itself. As a free speech advocate, I am very opposed to legitimate hate speech which targets minorities, for example. However, the conversation we have about hate speech and the conversation we have about the recent rise in trigger warnings and anti-microaggression policy are very different.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, which highlighted a survey conducted by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale which commissioned a survey from McLaughlin & Associates about attitudes towards free speech on campus, 63 percent of students favor requiring professors to employ “trigger warnings” to alert students to material that might be discomforting. Not only do they think professors should implement trigger warnings, they think that trigger warnings should be mandatory.

Advocates of trigger warnings don’t often dwell on the ramifications of instituting such policies, but the consequences are many. By putting red tape around certain topics that could be found offensive or controversial, we are in effect robbing students of a full and rich education. Often works which address colonialism, racism, sexism, etc. touch upon humankind’s most urgent issues – issues that college students as members of society should be wrestling with, not hiding from.

Furthermore, the rise in awareness is actually making students more sensitive towards arguments thrown around in class. Is encouraging students to ask “am I offended by this?” before they ask “how valid is this argument?” discouraging students from speaking up?

 

I’ve made it my mission to change college speech culture.

I have spent my college years thinking deeply, fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship within myself and debating with students who care about the important issues despite college speech culture, not because of it. I have befriended the students that embrace open and honest debate, I’ve joined extracurriculars that value free speech, I’ve had internships devoted to exploring new ideas, and now I am making it my mission to spread this culture that has so influenced me, to the place which it should begin: the classroom.

I’ve made the decision that if my school won’t champion the ideals of free speech, I will. And if you’re reading this I encourage you to fight the same fight.

OP-ED: Legislating morality is ineffective in upholding society’s moral standards

Many people, especially college students, laugh at the notion of modern day alcohol prohibition. The idea of legal abstention from a substance that, when used responsibly, is virtually harmless to society is irrational. The legal prohibition of the 1920s ultimately didn’t stop people from enjoying their forbidden beverages. Statistics show that numbers stayed the same, and illegality just made the practice more dangerous.

Gone are the days of speakeasies and bootleggers, but today’s politicians from both the left and the right seem to have forgotten the failure of the roaring twenties in barring substances. In an all too common repetition of history, they continue to ban whatever immoral substance or behavior they believe will best protect society irrespective of the unintended consequences.

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

I tend to believe that my personal behavior is a consequence of my morals, beliefs and values that I have acquired through my upbringing and personal experience, not from legislation created by politicians. It is for this reason that I often question the effectiveness of laws.

Is legislation effective in upholding society’s moral standards?

A case for legalizing prostitution would lend itself to the contrary. Aside from the principled appeal for prostitution legalization –that mutual, personal practices between consenting adults shouldn’t be outlawed – there is also a numerical case against the embargo of “America’s oldest profession.”

The commonly held misconception about prostitution – that is strikingly similar to many issues of morality – is that legalization would result in an increase in the behavior. Study after study finds this prediction to be a fallacy. Rather, the practice is just as common, but it’s practiced in a different manner.

The same principle holds true with alcohol and marijuana legislation. Any college student could probably attest to the not-so-secret reality that young adults partake in activities that are illegal. By and large, the law does not prevent college kids who wish to smoke pot or drink from doing so.

Nevertheless, many folks support increasing government power as a means to restrict unlawful and immoral behavior. Ultimately, this tragic misplacement of power usually leads to a plethora of unintended consequences, often creating victims in otherwise victimless crimes.

Prohibition of marijuana has resulted in a costly, dangerous and unproductive drug war that continues to plague our country and violate our personal liberty by giving government more power to pry into individuals’ lives, often creating more harm than good. Outlawing drugs, like marijuana, has not prevented people from using them; it has just changed the way in which people do so, creating a black market that is hazardous to not only those involved in drug consumption, but also society as a whole.

Similarly, the illegality of sex work has made prostitutes more vulnerable to violence from pimps and customers by forcing those wanting to participate in the consensual act to do so within the constraints of the dangerous black market.

Even the unreasonable age of alcohol consumption – higher than almost every other developed country – puts college students at a disadvantage more than it protects us. Instead of consuming alcohol in a public location, such as bars and concerts, with sober staff watching and trusted bartenders to make your drinks, college students are largely forced to drink behind closed doors where there is less accountability.

These realities notwithstanding, many people will still vehemently oppose the legality of these practices, equating an endorsement for legality with an endorsement of practice.

It is just as rational for an individual to personally oppose a practice and still support the legality of such a practice as it is for an individual to oppose someone’s speech and still support his or her right to say it.

My advice to readers: If you don’t like pot, don’t consume it. If you don’t see prostitution as a legitimate form of work, don’t participate. If you don’t agree with someone else’s morals, abide by your own, and allow the law to be impartial in respecting everyone’s liberty to live their life as they please.

Laws that restrict personal behavior in the name of moral conscientiousness, however well intentioned they may be, are not only ineffective, but also detrimental to society due to the unintended consequences they create. Allowing everyone to live their life as they best see fit, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact another person’s life, creates a better and freer society for all.

OP-ED: Midterm elections brought small gains for millennials, but our fight is far from over

Minimum wage

Whether you have spent the past few weeks hot on the campaign trail or generally disengaged from the political process, election season is inescapably exhausting for everyone.

As a grassroots campaigner, much of my fall semester was spent having conversations with the electorate while canvasing neighborhoods, making phone calls and registering individuals to vote.

In this role, I could sense the political fatigue that overwhelmed voters as the date grew closer to Nov. 4.

Campaign signs littered street corners, reminders to vote overtook answering machines and people inevitably began to wonder if the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent and innumerable hours of campaigning were worth the expense in terms of the tangible change that this election season brought.

I gauge election results differently than most, using a spectrum that measures whether the election made our country freer or more tyrannical, rather than redder or bluer. Under this criterion, I believe that Americans, especially millennials, have made some small gains, but also that there is still a vast amount of progress that needs to be made to protect our generation’s liberty and freedom.

On the freedom end of the spectrum, the states of Alaska and Oregon and the District of Columbia overwhelmingly legalized marijuana, delivering another blow to the outdated war on drugs.

Additionally, Republican control of the legislative branch lends optimism for a possible audit to the Federal Reserve to be passed through the legislature, which would hold our government-backed institutions more accountable.

On the other hand, four states increased minimum wage, predictably increasing unemployment and making it harder for the most vulnerable members of society to find jobs.

Furthermore, unnecessary spending by war-mongering Republicans is inevitable, adding to the immense debt put on the backs of the next generation of taxpayers.

After Nov. 4, it’s easy to disengage from the problems our nation continues to face in the name of political fatigue and hibernate in a bubble of obliviousness until the presidential election in 2016. We must refrain from this enticing but severely detrimental behavior.

We must not forget the small amount of progress that we’ve made this election season and the hard work and grassroots effort that it took to create that change.

We must stay vigilant in our fight to hold our politicians accountable to our generation’s needs and demands, not only during election season, but also continuously throughout the year. I believe this is the only way true progress can be made.

If you don’t believe in our politicians or the political system as an efficient means of progress – as many don’t – embrace the power of issue-based political activism to educate individuals and advocate for change in that way.

Regardless of the path you take, it is crucial that we stay informed, educated and, above all, determined to exercise the rights that the Constitution protects in order to ensure those rights won’t just as soon be taken away.

OP-ED: Raising the minimum wage adversely affects college students and low-skilled workers

In the 76 years since the introduction of a federally mandated minimum wage to U.S. economic policy, the general electorate have debated its necessity, usefulness and real-world impact to the point of exhaustion. With the arrival midterm elections, controversy inevitably ensues.

This year, President Barack Obama and the Democrats have pushed a national minimum wage increase from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan has endorsed this increase claiming, “It really gives people more funds to spend… and helps to grow small businesses.”

In theory, Hagan’s claims seem to mutually benefit both the worker and the market. However, in practice, government mandated wage increases aren’t quite as symbiotic. Actually, they accomplish quite the contrary: eliminating jobs, increasing unemployment and raising poverty levels.

The effects of unemployment and poverty in North Carolina surround us. With North Carolina’s unemployment rate sitting at a bleak 6.8 percent – slightly above the national average – it seems everyone knows someone who wants a job but can’t find one. Furthermore, everyone knows someone who has a job and still falls below the poverty line.

Millennials are at the greatest disadvantage. Youth unemployment currently sits at about 13 percent in our state, leaving the newest generation of workers without a job and searching for a better alternative.

For this reason, young people are particularly predisposed to the emotional appeal of raising wages and are thus falling victim to the very policy that will disproportionately hurt them.

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Raising the minimum wage, like many emotionally driven, well-intentioned economic theories, would have a plethora of unintended consequences that, in practice, adversely affect poverty and unemployment rates, destructively affecting the very people it intends to help.

It’s important to understand that wages are best set by the market they exist within – not by politicians or legislation.

By raising minimum wage to counteract conditions within a market, policy-makers are simply masking underlying market issues. The effects of such a decision are catastrophically destructive, especially for college students and recent grads that are just entering the job market.

Politicians and left-wing activists commonly pull at the heartstrings of voters, advocating for an increase in minimum wage in order to increase the financial status of the most vulnerable in society: the poor and less skilled.

What many people don’t realize is that increasing wages to $10.10 per hour doesn’t mean that an employer must pay all of his employees that amount. Rather, that employer must pay only the employees he can reasonably afford to keep.

Rationally, the employer, if faced with this situation would likely keep the most skilled employees with the most work experience in order to create the best product or service and become profitable.

In this situation, the more qualified employees would receive the minimum wage increase at the expense of the less skilled, less experienced workers – usually college students and part time workers – who would receive a $10.10 per hour pay cut.

Additionally, internships that provide college students valuable work experience – essential to staying competitive in the job market – would disappear, as companies wouldn’t be able to afford as many, if any, interns.

Ultimately, the invisible, but nonetheless existent, guiding hand of a free market is the best way to ensure a higher quality of life throughout society.

Competition among employers for high quality workers is the best way to guarantee workers are paid enough to support themselves. In the end, when business flourishes, society flourishes in every way.

It’s time that voters see beyond economic nativity and acknowledge economic reality. Approaching economic and societal issues with logic, not emotion, undeniably provides the most benefit to not only the most vulnerable, but also the society as a whole.

OP-ED: Third party candidates’ arguments hold value, even within the two-party system

On Oct. 17, an official U.S. Senate debate, hosted by Free the Vote and cosponsored by UNC Charlotte’s very own Young Americans for Liberty, took place on campus, drawing a sizable crowd, attracting considerable media attention and generating meaningful conversation and honest debate about the issues facing our region, our state and our country.

As North Carolina’s third Senate debate of the election season, this event stood in stark contrast to the rhetorical, slanderous debates that many North Carolinians have grown accustomed to. Instead of negative campaigning and back and forth name-calling, these candidates offered authentic discussion and mutual respect for one another.

Perhaps this was due in part to the absence of the two most notable individuals running in the 2014 Senate race: Republican candidate Thom Tillis and Democratic candidate Kay Hagan. Both declined the invitation to take part in North Carolina’s only all-inclusive Senate debate this year.

Regardless, Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh and write-in candidates Barry Gurney, John Rhodes and David Waddel continued on with the debate, unfazed by the stigma of the two seats that sat empty beside them.

Many voters will argue that such debates don’t matter – that third party and write-in candidates don’t stand a chance in general elections and, thus, such events are a waste of time. I disagree.

Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh and write-in candidate John Rhodes debate on stage in McKnight Hall. Photo by Ben Coon
Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh and write-in candidate John Rhodes debate on stage in McKnight Hall. Photo by Ben Coon

Statistically, the chance of these non-traditional candidates pulling a victory this November is slim. I understand that. Irrespective of the likelihood of these candidates taking office, their arguments and ideas remain significant.

Haugh, Gurney, Rhodes and Waddel brought up points in their responses that challenged the politics-as-usual attitudes that are typical for election season.

During his response on immigration policy, Haugh addressed the outdated war on drugs that disproportionally affects our generation. During his response about the role of government, Rhodes addressed the crony connections senators make with big business, pointing out that he has worked in government and has seen the influences first hand.

All candidates demonstrated a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a need for real, meaningful change in Washington – change they believe neither Hagan nor Tillis can enact in office.

Regardless of your views of the war on drugs, crony capitalism or the functionality of government, this disassociation with polarized Democrat and Republican platforms is something that college students rally behind. The millennial generation has made it clear that they are are sick of the toeing the party line and are itching for a better alternative to the far left and far right candidates that are served to them on a silver platter each election season, and the numbers show it.

According to Reason’s latest poll, 34 percent of millennials call themselves independent, over triple the rate among Americans over 30. Additionally, millennials are open to nontraditional candidates. Fifty-three percent would support a socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate.

I’m not suggesting that third parties stand a chance in elections or even that all of their arguments are valid. I’m simply proposing that voters could stand to benefit from hearing more sides than two, because quite simply there are more than two sides even within the two-party system.

UNC Charlotte students: If you’re unhappy with the options you’re given this election season, don’t fall victim to political apathy. Rather, embrace activism. Try to see beyond the illusion of the red and blue politics that election season thrives on and advocate for real change. It may not be popular, but it’s necessary.

OP-ED: America’s failed drug war and inefficient immigration policy are to blame for border crisis

Desperate to become a legal citizen of the United States, 18-year-old Manuel Rodas spent all he had on a one-way bus ticket from St. Louis, Mo. to Charlotte, N.C. to appear in front of an immigration court and fulfill a lifelong dream to obtain what many of us take for granted – legal citizenship.

“This is not an uncommon case,” explained Charlotte immigration judge Theresa Holmes-Simmons, during her speaking engagement at UNC Charlotte last week.

As a member of the juvenile docket, Judge Holmes-Simmons handles youth immigration cases, like Rodas’s, on a daily basis. Inevitably, her job became a little bit tougher following the recent influx of children pouring over the border and seeking asylum status.

Although the number of young immigrants peaked this June, children continue to penetrate our broken system in pursuit of freedom, equality, safety and better quality of life; thus, the fervent and angry debate of what should be done with these children continues.

This back and forth controversy about what to do with these children does not properly address the core of the immigration issue because it does not adequately account for why these children suddenly appeared at America’s doorstep.

If America wants to properly address the influx of asylum-seeking border children, we must first address our own failed policies – especially our war on drugs.

It isn’t coincidental that the influx came almost exclusively from three of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – all countries plagued by the black drug market, created by America’s unlawful war on drugs.

Silvia Padilla stands with her daughters Katheryn Varela and Dayana who escaped violence in Honduras to seek asylum in the United States. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
Silvia Padilla stands with her daughters Katheryn Varela and Dayana who escaped violence in Honduras to seek asylum in the United States. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

As Reason magazine states, “This trillion-dollar war puts the onus on Latin American countries to stop drugs from flowing into the U.S. – rather than on the U.S. to curb its own appetite.”

This failed effort has driven the drug trade into the precarious hands of dangerous drug cartels and has put uncountable families in danger. These families, and their children in particular, turn to the land of the free and the home of the brave for a safer, more lawful place to live. Ironically, it is this law that prevents individuals in search of a better life from claiming their citizenship.

Anti-immigration hardliners will blame the influx of minors on our unwillingness to deport those with illegal citizen status, but in reality, if less illegal immigration is the goal, we must first reform our current immigration policy to make it easier to become a citizen.

Obtaining citizenship isn’t as easy as it once was. Ellis Island, once flooding with budding new citizens, is now replete with exasperating processes of paperwork and waiting – a lot of waiting. The average wait time to obtain citizenship in the United States is 25 years, according to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and that’s a generous number.

Depending on what country a person is immigrating from, their wait time will vary, and thanks to governmental limits on the number of immigrants annually accepted from each country, those coming from countries that are most negatively influenced by the war on drugs must wait the longest. Those seeking a safer alternative to their violent home don’t have the precious time to waste.

Humanity perpetually creates excuses to put admission limits on the number and type of immigrants, but I believe if left to it’s own devices, the free market will self-regulate and produce the most prosperous outcome, as it has in the past.

Immigrants are and always have been an asset to America. Each immigrant crossing our border has the opportunity to make a positive impact on American society, and research shows that they have.

The impact can be observed right here in Charlotte. According to an NC Policy Watch report, “Unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina . . . paid $317.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010. These taxes, vital sources of revenue for the state of NC, include state income taxes, property taxes (even if they rent) and sales taxes. In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants – and their family members – are adding significant value to the NC economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers and entrepreneurs as well.”

American society must look introspectively at the animosity we place on immigrants. As much as we sometimes disregard it, we are a nation founded on immigration, and we should celebrate it rather than restrict it.

Engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, which has stood tall for over a century and greeted hopeful immigrants that fueled our nation, are these words: “Give me your tired your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Perhaps Lady Liberty would frown upon America’s current immigration system. For more than 100 years, America was a true beacon of productivity and freedom, due in large part to open immigration free of restriction.

Today, with our borders crime-ridden and our policies over-reaching, it’s clear that we must move towards a more limited government that depends on regulation guided by the natural free market rather than the state, allowing all that want to pursue the American Dream to do so.

OP-ED: Innovation and liberation trump feminism when dealing with college rape culture

On her journey to becoming the Miss USA 2014 title holder, Nia Sanchez made a remark that outraged leftist feminists and ignited an already fiery debate that continues to divide students in universities across the country.

When asked about how to approach the “horrific epidemic” of sexual assaults on college campuses that had been “swept under the rug for so long,” Sanchez replied in a way that was unexpected by society.

“I believe that more awareness is important so women can learn how to protect themselves,” said Sanchez. “I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself.”

At face value, this statement seems fairly uncontroversial. Confidence and self-defense – values that Sanchez holds high as a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo – are seemingly widely accepted ideals that are looked upon favorably by humanity.

Immediately following Sanchez’s interview, I observed in astonishment a group of well-known feminists taking to social media and bashing her notion of self-empowerment, even calling her a “victim blamer” and making accusations of Sanchez promoting rape culture.

Similar outrage recently ensued after a local group of innovative college students from NC State developed a nail polish that, when mixed with a drink containing date-rape drugs, will change color. I believe this revolutionary nail polish, if mainstreamed, would benefit society by placing fear where it belongs: into the perpetrator of the crime, the rapist, rather than the victims. Inevitably, feminists disagree.

The same individuals that voiced hate towards Nia Sanchez again took to social media in disgruntlement, making statements like, “It’s sad that we have to make an anti-rape nail polish instead of teaching men that it’s not okay to rape someone” and “That’s not the world I want to live in.”

My question to modern feminists who hold these beliefs is as follows: Why do education about the harmfulness of rape and self-defense and women empowerment have to be mutually excusive entities?

I, too, long for a world of societal respect and mutual understanding, and I recognize the importance of education. However, I also understand that as a society we must sometimes set aside our unachievable utopian vision of what we want the world to look like and start addressing the world we live in today – the real world.

According to the Cleveland Rape and Crisis Center, one in four young women will be the victim of rape during her academic career. It seems logical to me that the victims of these heinous and unjust crimes would be in favor of having a little bit more control over their own lives, rather than depending on society to protect them from its inexorable ills.

Unlike many college-aged females, I don’t identify with the word “feminist.” I never really felt that the word applied to me because I never considered myself a victim of society simply because I belonged to a certain gender. I never felt inherently unequal to my male counterparts. Quite frankly, feminism can’t survive without victims, and I refuse to be one.

I believe that the modern feminist movement has fostered a stigma of government dependency and victimhood in itself. Legislating morality and depending on societal sensibility is inefficient. Rather, the best way to empower women is to put the power in their hands.

It is the combination of education and empowerment of victims that provides me hope for the future. According to the 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics, the estimated annual rate of female rape of sexual assault victimizations in the United States has declined over 50 percent from 1995 to 2010.

Despite this glimmer of optimism, society must continue to face an inconvenient truth about rape. No matter how much we strive to become a more educated and respectable society, deviant people will exist.

If society wants to address the real issue of rape, we will learn to oppose any law that disarms innocent people, continue to educate and advocate for peaceful coexistence and discontinue the suppression of valuable tools, like self-defense, and groundbreaking innovation, like date rape-detecting nail polish.

OP-ED: Millennials tell the federal government to keep its hands off free market Internet

“I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to make my own schedule. I wanted to have more control over my life and my work. I wanted to become an entrepreneur.” 

Kylah Allen, a UNC Charlotte alum and founder of a successful North Carolina company, is far from alone in her pursuit to pave her own path to success. According to Reason-Rupe’s latest poll, over half of America’s millennial generation has dreams of someday becoming an entrepreneur, working for themselves and starting a business. 

With the economy in distress, youth employment at a disconcerting high (12.67 percent in the state of North Carolina) and an austere lack of upward mobility in the modern job market, it’s hard to believe that America’s youngest generation could muster the ambition and grit to become the biggest producer of entrepreneurs. But we have, and we’ve done it our own way.

Millennials understand and appreciate the new era of impartial competition and fair profit and have thus turned to the freest marketplace left in America to pursue their ambitions: the Internet.

By providing a forum for virtually unconditional free speech, an outlet for new ideas and a marketplace for international business that the brick and mortar businesses of yesteryear lack, the Internet has not only survived the recent economic downturn – it has thrived. 

Last week, the Hudson Institute reported that online sales have accounted for 20 percent of economic growth between 1997 and 2002 and 10 percent growth between 2002 and 2007. The Internet is now a fundamental slice in America’s modern economy and young entrepreneurs are taking note.

America’s next generation has found a faster, cheaper and easier way to do business, but where there is free market innovation, bureaucratic red tape is sure to follow. 

Introduced to Congress on Aug. 17, 2014, the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act (MITFA) essentially allows states to collect taxes from retailers with no physical presence in that state. Additionally, if passed, this legislation would place thousands of new restrictions on new businesses and would raise the price of items most often bought online. Good news for government, bad news for you.

Like it does for most college students, the Internet regularly provides me with some of the staples I use in my daily life and is thus what I usually turn to when shopping. 

For example, when shopping for textbooks, Amazon undoubtedly trumps an inconvenient trip to Barnes and Noble. Online, it’s possible for me to shop for the same books sold at brick and mortar stores but with more choice, better competition, lower prices and higher quality, all at a time and place that conveniently fits my busy schedule. 

Implementation of a federal Internet sales tax would translate practically to higher textbook prices and lower incentives for online shopping. This government-induced hindrance is detrimental to business and detrimental to America.

When I made this discovery, I, among tens of thousands of angry millennials, took to the Internet.  

In an epic event of political discontent and youthful vigor, millennials fought back using the very entity government was trying to dismantle. Thanks in large part to a “Facebook bomb,” organized by Generation Opportunity, negative attention was brought to the bill, which currently looks as though it’s not going to pass.

When asked what the greatest innovation to come from the 21st century is, most young people will respond with the creation and development of Internet. With a user base that’s 86.2 percent of the United States population strong, it makes sense that most 18 to 30-year-olds could not imagine a life without it. 

It also makes sense that older congressional leaders, who are disconnected from our generation’s way of thinking, acting and doing business, just wouldn’t get it.

Young Americans, recent college graduates and our nation’s next generation of innovators have found a better approach to business that is easier, faster and more effective, and it is now our responsibility to protect it. 

Recently, there has been vague talk of more government regulation on Internet commerce and a reemergence of the Internet sales tax. We must not forget the struggles that we’ve overcome to keep our Internet free and our politicians accountable. We must stay vigilant. 

If government continues to meddle with Internet commerce, there is a strong potential for countless Americans with similar hopes and dreams to Allen to be unemployed at the feet of the federal government. 

Luckily, our generation is fighting back. Recently, young people from around the country let their voices be heard and actually made a difference in legislation that would directly impact them. You can too. Contact your local official today, and tell them to keep their hands off our innovation.

OP-ED Debate: Lower the cost of education with the free market

The price of higher education is rising at an alarming rate, while its real-world usefulness, return on investment and overall quality is rapidly deteriorating. The result is a product that’s leaving the next group of college graduates broke, jobless, and searching for answers.

Student debt is currently at a staggering total of $1 trillion dollars leaving our generation not only in shock, but also chin-deep in debt that we didn’t create. According to a recent report by Generation Opportunity, the cost of higher education has increased by more than 500 percent since most of our parents were college-aged in the 1980s. Tuition prices have nearly doubled in the last decade alone.

UNC Charlotte is not immune to these largely government-induced tuition increases. Since 2004, there has been a 19.4 percent increase in tuition rates for in-state students and almost 30 percent increase for out-of-staters.

Still, these numbers don’t reflect the true increase in college costs. Believe it or not, they’re artificially low. These numbers would be higher if they included the amount that the federal government has assumed per student, due in part to the fact that colleges don’t have to bother finding lower cost solutions to education because they know the government will pick up the tab.

It’s clear that something needs to be done to guide universities towards a more affordable education system that’s practically valuable to today’s students post-graduation. Clearer, perhaps, is the notion that our government is doing a ghastly job at getting us there.

Student loan payment caps, currently set by President Obama at 10 percent, and fixed 3.86 percent student loan rates (essentially a $1 per day subsidy) proposed by Elizabeth Warren sound good in theory. After all, us college kids are struggling financially under the current system. It’s only fair that Uncle Sam steps in to bail us out, right?

Simply put, government-regulated higher education doesn’t work and bailing out a failing system isn’t the answer. A government bailout of the current student debt would simply shift the load of debt to the next generation of college students and young taxpayers. It may seem like an easy solution now, but, in reality, it’s a small bandage on the larger issue that got us into this fiscal mess in the first place.

So, what is the solution to creating a better quality, more affordable education for America’s current workforce-bound generation? Quite simply, the government, especially at the federal level, should stay out, leaving the standard of higher education to the most natural regulator history has to offer: the free market. Working on the basis of supply, demand, competition and the constant pursuit of more happy customers, a free market system results in a higher quality product for a lower price.

Historically, the free market has produced some of the most essential objects in our lives for relatively low prices. Imagine going even a day without using the Internet or your cell phone. The quality of both these objects has increased at a confounding rate, while prices have gone down over the years – a direct result of a lack of government interference in their markets.

Why not apply this simple logic to the higher education system? As a free marketplace, the consumer (that’s you) would make choices based on aspects of college education that are practical and useful, from classes and internship programs to the quality of collegiate sports. Simultaneously, the university would take on the role of making these aspects of college life more plentiful and affordable for new prospects.

As a result, colleges that are able to produce the most appealing product will get the most applicants and produce enough profit to thrive. Colleges that aren’t up to par or can’t find a cost-effective way to produce the best product won’t survive on the government or taxpayer’s dime.

While it’s not rational to believe that the federal government will completely withdraw its hand from the taxpayer’s ever-thinning wallet, H.R. 4612, more casually known as the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act (HERO), is taking positive steps in that direction, and college students should support it.

The act would allow states the freedom from government regulation to give more money to smaller state schools allowing those universities to create more opportunities, incentives to attend and cost-effective programs, as well as secure a path to a post-graduate career.

With four out of every five college seniors not having a post-grad job lined up, it is more important now than ever before to utilize a more free market approach to education and tell the government to stay out of the whole process. What many of Washington’s politicians don’t want millennials to know is that a move towards a freer market is a move towards the next generation of better educated young Americans and a better society for us all. Fortunately, we’re catching on.