Clara Casé

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Let’s talk about sex

In the US, only 24 states require their public schools and universities to provide sex education to students. In North Carolina, according to the NC Youth Connected program, schools are required to teach abstinence through the Reproductive Health and Safety Education program. For a group of students from UNC Charlotte, this was not sufficient. They formed the organization Sex Week to create a week fully dedicated to discussing and informing students about sex education, including topics like the LGBTQ+ community and sex taboos.

The event happens once a year. The 2019 edition in February hosted speakers like clinical sexologist and sex educator Dr. Lindsey Doe, the local sexologist Tia Evans and the author of LGBTQ+ fiction Mackenzi Lee. Students were also able to watch a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a live drag show. The event promoted discussion about different sex-related topics with the objective of creating an environment in which individuals of all backgrounds feel included to learn.

UNC Charlotte’s Sex Week drew influence from the Sex Week at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The UT Sex Week, much like the UNC Charlotte version, has received negative attention from the Tennessee Government including restraining laws and attempts to stop the event.

One of the cofounders and acting Treasurer of Sex Week, Melissa Martin, affirms that the group’s mission is to open discussion on campus about all aspects of sex. Martin believes that the critical thinking promoted by Sex Week is fundamental for students’ health and sex education.

In an interview Martin said, “Many taboos surrounding sex are the result of a lack of understanding. Discussing sex publicly and openly minimizes conflict resulting from misunderstanding. It allows individuals to ask questions pertinent to their safety and pleasure. Discussing sex is particularly important in areas where sex education is lacking such as states that promote abstinence-only programs. These programs are often heteronormative and cast sex in a shameful light. They create a stigma surrounding sex, preventing discussion of sexual safety without decreasing the prevalence of STIs in youth or pregnancy rates.”

Martin also points out that the event is not sponsored by the University and has partnerships with the Office of Identity, Equity and Engagement, Title IX Office, Health and Wellness Center and several campus departments, as well as a few on campus organizations. Sex Week also promotes communication with That Type, Safe Alliance, and several religious organizations.

For Martin, the event creates a more open and accepting environment at UNC Charlotte. “Sex Week events allow students to learn from each other,” she explains. “Some events, such as Bystander Intervention Training, promote discussion about the resources available to students and encourage consideration of how to better access and understand these resources. Other events are more social in nature and encourage students to interact with each other in inclusive, celebratory environments. Above all else, Sex Week is a place where questions are encouraged and empathy is promoted.”

Bystander Intervention

And the award goes to…

Suits, ties, high heels and diplomacy. That is the profile of the most award-winning team on campus. The Model United Nations (MUN) team and club hold more accolades than all Forty Niners sports teams and organizations. In the school year 2017-2018 alone, they won 19 prizes in several national and international conferences.

Model United Nations is an opportunity for students all over the world to participate in conferences and simulate international diplomacy. The issues of discussion vary but always model real political scenarios, and students must represent the country they are defending. The organization started at Harvard in the 1920s, when League of Nations was still the organ to be simulated. Today, Model United Nations receive support and encouragement from their parent organization, the United Nations. Delegates can win awards based on how they represent their countries and policies.

The president of UNC Charlotte’s Model UN club, Rania Hamdan, assures that all their awards are the result of a team effort and hard work to maintain the team’s reputation at every conference. Hamdan has participated in MUN for over three years and believes it’s an important academic and social opportunity. In an interview Hamdan said, “Model UN will develop your writing, public speaking, debate and diplomacy skills and push you in your academic career. But what I always tell people when they first join the club is no matter what it is that brought you here, you will stay for the people.”

For many, the social aspect of MUN is the most important. Members interact with people of every race, religion and socioeconomic class. The constant travel and group efforts create close friendships, says Hamdan.

Model UN is not only for those with experience; Hamdan believes that anyone who is interested in participating in the activity can achieve the greater goals. She says, “It is one of the most interdisciplinary clubs on campus in that we have students participate from all different majors and from freshmen to seniors. All that I tell new delegates when they join is that you get out what you put in. Students that are genuinely interested in understanding diplomacy and international relations, no matter what their background is, can find something in this club to enjoy.”

Mayra Moreno is one of the newer members of the 2019 Model UN club. She is a junior majoring in Criminal Justice and decided to join the club in order to leave her comfort zone and improve her public speaking skills. When asked about her experience so far, she says, “I was coming in with a blank slate and I found myself enjoying my experience so far with Model UN. It was intimidating at first, but the environment and vibes are great. I’m excited to see how much I will be able to grow with this opportunity that Model UN gives me.”

The UNC Charlotte Model UN Club will attend two conferences in Spring 2019. Some of its selected members will represent the school in the Harvard World MUN competition in Madrid, Spain. All club members that are interested will attend the South Regional Model United Nation (SRMUN) in Charlotte at the end of March.

UNC Charlotte has two forms of engagement with the Model UN team: the club and the classes. There are two courses on Model United Nations, introductory and advanced classes, that fulfill oral and written general education requirements and can even double as a Senior Seminar. The classes are held by Dr. Mary Jo Shepherd. The club is free for all to participate and meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Friday room 123.

 

UNC Charlotte is more international than you think

According to the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), the United States of America has more than one million international students that in the 2017-2018 academic year contributed more than 39 billion dollars to the economy. The University of North Carolina Charlotte is home to over 1,600 of those students, coming from more than 90 countries around the world.

Besides the great economic impact they bring to the United States, international students are also a way UNC Charlotte has found to promote diversification of their campus and enrich their students with different cultures experiences. The university holds a special office to welcome and take care of these new forty-niners, the International Student and Scholar Office (ISSO).

The director of ISSO, Tarek Elshayeb, defends that international students contribute a lot to the UNC Charlotte environment. In an interview Elshayeb stated, “International Students in our campus and on other campuses in the country, they bring a lot of benefits. They bring a different perspective to the classroom. They come with a different academic point of view. They also give the opportunity for American students to interact with someone from another part of the world, which is also a learning opportunity for both students. And it’s a great way for the international students to learn about the American culture.”

Elshayeb also said that international students are typically examples of academic success due to the support of the faculty, staff and the community around them. Around two-thirds of international students who come to UNC Charlotte are graduate students pursuing degrees in the sciences, engineering or math studies.

The remaining third of international students are typically undergraduate students from all over the world. Paul Di Fazio, an exchange business student from France, arrived in the fall semester of 2018 and will be staying in UNC Charlotte until the end of spring. Paul wanted a chance to study in an English-speaking country and to experience American student life. Paul elaborated on his experiences stating, “I think its an interesting way to share your culture with American people, and a way to learn with them. And what I love the most is all the opportunities that we have when we just come here. If you want to play sports, you are free to find a sport for you to play. If you want to get in a club, there are so many possibilities. We are even able to travel and know the US better. There are so many things that I love.”

UNC Charlotte has many different events to promote the connection between American and international 49ers. In the fall semester, the campus held the Annual International Festival where the international students can display their culture around campus and their own events. Every first and third Tuesday of each month, ISSO promotes the International Coffee Hour, an event where students can chat, socialize, play games and get to know different people around the world. Time and locations for these events can be found at: uncc.edu/programs-workshops.