Hiral Patel

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Hiral is from Cary, North Carolina. She is a Political Science Major and wants to go into politics. She's passionate about what goes on in the world and hopes to serve the public good. When she's not working on the Niner Times, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and doing adventurous things.

The significance of learning communities

Most freshman students on campus have either never heard of a Learning Community or they think it’s doltish. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a learning community “consists of small cohorts of students who are enrolled together in two or more linked courses in a single semester, a widely used strategy aimed at improving student outcomes.” Just by this definition, it may not seem like much, but in reality, it improves the career outcomes of a student by a large margin compared to a normal student that is attending university. Learning Communities are often based on a specific goal for a specific route in a field of interest. Not all students may have the exact same goal when joining, but with their same interests, they can inspire each other and adapt to new things. The point of a Learning Community is to provide opportunities such as internships, experience and direct knowledge on a student’s academic goals.

At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, we have many different learning communities. There are residential optional learning communities such as Gen-X and SUCCESS, and then there are residential learning communities such as Health Connection, Engineering, Leadership, Nursing, Business, etc. These learning communities reside in the Lynch Hall. Here is an inside scoop from Shantanu Menawat, a first-year student who is apart of the Business Learning Community here at UNC Charlotte.

How has the Learning Community impacted you academically?
“It has put me on the right track for my major and what I want to do. So I am both pre-business and pre-Med and majoring in management, and the learning community provides me with certain classes that I need in order to achieve my goal. I also have professors that teach smaller classes in which I can better understand rather than sitting in massive lecture halls. I build a better connection with my professors and I have made closer friends.”

What about socially?
“Since we go to the same events and have some of the same classes together just reserved for BLC students, we get to meet each other a lot and we have better friendships. In fact, my roommates are now some of my best friends. I also get to meet people and gain connections through group events and network with leaders in business, allowing me to get first-hand knowledge and experience in my career field.”

What experiences/events specifically have you had within your learning community?
“We went to the Whitewater Center once, and over there we did a scavenger hunt as a team building exercise. We have also had guest speakers who come to talk about their business and explain why they went into a certain industry, how they made it, what struggles and obstacles they had to face before they became successful and basically explain how they went from being a start-up company to a major corporation. Not only did we hear about it, but we visited a small start-up company and checked out the makings of the business and how it was slowly growing.”

Based on your experiences and the events that you have went to, how has that helped you with your career plans and what lessons did you learn from it?
“There are more people than just you. Once you come to such a large university, you see all the diversity, see that there is a large variety of ideas and goals out there that we may have not even thought about based on career goals [and] interests, and that everyone is going through something different with a different story. We need to accept this diversity, embrace it and learn from it.”

Because the Business Learning Community is a residential learning community, how do you feel sharing a floor with other students that you always see and share classes with?
“I’ve noticed that in the BLC, because you share a place with people you have common interests with, you always have something to talk about and something to expand upon leading to actually getting to know your roommates, neighbors and classmates. This makes a resident become more socially-outgoing and it makes the atmosphere of college feel like a home. I’m glad I joined the BLC because of this.”

What is the one thing, you as a learning community student, have that a regular student at UNC Charlotte does not have?
“The BLC has mentors that were in the BLC last year and they give pointers to current students on what tracks they might want to focus on taking and what direction they want to go into for their career. These mentors are really outgoing, and even though they do not know you, they really care about your future and are always willing to help with any questions or concerns you have academically. They even help you find internships and opportunities to give you a start in your career as you’re in school.”

Learning Communities provide students with a more advanced learning and social experience. The classes are smaller and the professors and students stay consistent throughout the year, allowing students individually to open up and become comfortable with their surroundings and the campus. Because of the opportunities provided by Learning Communities, the students are also able to build connections with colleagues in the workplace and their mentors. I did not know much about Learning Communities until the SOAR Orientation over the summer before class started, but I joined one because my other friends were planning on doing so. Although I didn’t make the decision by myself initially, it was the best decision I made to start off my higher education before I move on to the workplace. I urge students and faculty who know of students who are now applying to universities to introduce the concept of Learning Communities to them. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, Learning Communities are helpful to anyone who puts their effort to make it in.

Mecklenburg Sheriff Department’s collaboration with ICE

Back in May of 2014, the citizens of Mecklenburg County elected Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, a hardline conservative who, in cooperation with the Trump administration, is working to “do something” about the immigration issue here in Charlotte. Sheriff Carmichael ran his elections as a Democrat, but his views on immigration and gun rights align more with conservatives. He is known to be the “last conservative democrat in Charlotte”. According to the Charlotte Observer, “Carmichael has repeatedly defended the 287(g) program, which provides access to a federal database where jail officials can check the immigration status for anyone arrested in Mecklenburg County, whether they’re charged with a traffic violation or a violent crime.” Carmichael said that the intent of the program is “to make sure we’re taking felons and gang members, who are violent, out of play.”

The 287(g) program is functioning on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE was established in 2003 by the Bush administration; its purpose is to enforce immigration laws within the United States and to investigate criminal and terrorist activity of foreign nationals residing in the United States. According to ICE, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the program led to nearly 300 deportations in the fiscal year of 2017 alone and 15,000 deportations altogether since 2006. The controversy behind it is that deportations occur while suspects are still in the state of arrest, not after they are convicted. Many people believe that this is unconstitutional and that it violates the fourth amendment, but unfortunately, in this situation, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Once a suspect is arrested for a crime, a background check must be done regardless of the reason for the arrest.

During the election this year in May of 2018, Sheriff Carmichael was the only candidate to support the 287(g) program in contrast to his two other opponents, Garry McFadden and Antoine Ensley. McFadden and Ensley, along with other opponents of the 287(g) program, believe that even though ICE and the Charlotte Mecklenburg County Police Department are allowed to do this, their actions strip them of their ethics and moral values and of respecting one’s privacy and natural rights, especially if the suspect is not convicted, which in many deportation cases is not yet known. Others even believe that this is a target to the Latino community that resides in East Charlotte. It influences institutional racism. Like Carmichael said, the intent of the program is “to make sure we’re taking felons and gang members, who are violent, out of play.” This program can disproportionately impact Latino Immigrants just because of the way they look. The Migration Policy Institute found that “the 287(g) program can be a tool for localities pursuing anti-immigrant agendas. Sheriffs, who are generally elected officials, can use the program to meet political goals and respond to community pressure to “crack down” on immigration. For example, Sheriffs in Alamance County, North Carolina have been caught setting up checkpoints in majority Latino neighborhoods. An investigation done by the United States Department of Justice has found that Latino drivers were ten times more likely to be pulled over for traffic violations than Non-Latino drivers in these checkpoints. Throughout history, we have found different ways to commit racial profiling and promote institutional racism. Even now in 2018, the judicial system we know would not expect the White Man to be an illegal immigrant when juxtaposed to a Hispanic man, and because of our stereotypical judgments, we may never check the background of this White Man and never find out that he illegally crossed the border of Canada to come to the United States.

Sheriff Irwin Carmichael’s incumbency had witnessed a great defeat this year. Mecklenburg County’s new sheriff is Garry McFadden, the Former Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Homicide Detective. According to Charlotte’s NPR Source WFAE 90.7, “McFadden won about fifty-two percent of the vote” As mentioned before, he plans to repeal the 287(g) program here in Charlotte Mecklenburg County. And because of the controversy behind it, he states “I want to change the city to bring unity. I want to change the city to bring inclusiveness. And we’re going to have to talk about race.”

Editor’s Note: When this story was originally published, an error was made regarding the time Sheriff Irwin Carmichael was Sheriff of Mecklenburg County and when this program was supported. Since this error has been pointed out, the appropriate corrections have been made about the time this happened and who is currently Sheriff. We apologize for the error. 

RNC coming to the Queen City

On July 16, 2018, the Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 to host Trump’s 2020 Republican National Convention that will be hosted to declare his re-election race. This decision was also supported by Democratic Mayor of Charlotte, Vi Lyles, and according to the Charlotte Observer, she said that this was “the most difficult decision of my career.” Mayor Lyles is not entirely responsible for this decision; however, this effort caused some backlash. There are two problems with this conclusion: One, Polarization and Two, Confusion.

The Republican National Convention decision caused polarization, not only between liberals and conservatives in Charlotte, but in the entire state of North Carolina. This effort sparked a movement called #OurNC. According to the Charlotte Five in early July 2018, “local printmaker Evan Plante logged onto Facebook after the city’s recent decision to host the Republican National Convention, he was shocked to see his typically good-natured friends and neighbors involved in divisive and fruitless arguments. Upset by the negativity he was seeing across the normally supportive and open-minded Charlotte community, Plante designed a shirt with the text “OurNC” combined with a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ phrase that describes Charlotte in a positive light.” #OurNC is a bipartisan movement preventing the state from becoming divided like our country during the 2016 elections. It explains that we all have our differences politically, but we should not argue with others over a decision that was not made by them; we should be peaceful and respect other opinions. This movement has been effective in bringing people together through a common interest, which is the well-being of our home in North Carolina, and has been promoting more proper discourse.

Although this movement is effective, we must not forget that it is not meant to affect our views and opinions. Liberals and conservatives of the area are slightly agitated yet confused with this decision. Liberals feel as if they have been underrepresented by their elected council for going against their own views while conservatives are delighted with the decision; however, both political strands ask themselves one question and that is: why would a majority liberal panel agree to the Republican National Convention decision?

This decision seems to be made with all politics aside. According to WSOC-TV Charlotte, “The 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte had an economic impact of $163 million.” Just from observing the positive economic impacts of what the Democratic National Convention gave to the city of Charlotte, we can expect to generate a large sum of revenue from hosting the Republican National Convention in 2020. We could use that money to fund certain underfunded entities of the government or parts of Charlotte and help the city grow even more. Even though this may just be an economic decision, it will have some political consequences, especially for the Democrats on the Charlotte city council. Because democratic leaders have gone against the wishes of their supporters, in the next election cycle, they are expected to be voted out of office and replace with other democratic candidates.

There are positive and negative consequences to this decision. #OurNC is blowing off the heat between citizens and their view on this decision. So, we should ask ourselves that because this seems to be a non-partisanship decision, should we as citizens be non-partisan about this effort as well? Objectively, this Republican National Convention decision affects us positively, not just the members of the council. Do we just stick to our beliefs and become more polarized, or do we follow #OurNC and allow the council to take a nonpartisan stance? At the end of the day, as North Carolinians, we are looking forward to one common goal, and that is the betterment of North Carolina.