Jordan Snyder

Jordan Snyder is the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times and has been working with the newspaper since October 2013. He is a communications major with a minor in film studies.

Community input collected at first Belk Plaza forum

One of multiple feedback stations filled with votes at the Belk Plaza public forum. Photo by Jordan Snyder


Charlotte design and architecture firm LandDesign hosted the first of three public forums in the Cone University Center Lucas Room Feb. 8 to commence community input on the future of Belk Plaza. Several UNC Charlotte architecture and urban design students, as well as members of the Student Government Association, volunteered to help set up the event and guide attendees through various feedback stations.

Richard Petersheim, senior landscape architect at LandDesign, addressed the crowd for a brief presentation before turning everyone loose to voice their opinion on numerous proposed design and functionality options for Belk Plaza. He noted that compared to areas like the Student Union, this part of campus is “sleepy” and essentially only used as a pass-through.

“This part of campus currently doesn’t have any stickiness, as we call it,” said Petersheim. “There’s no real reason to stay there in between classes.” Despite the close proximity of the Rowe Arts building, he said, none of that building’s creative energy spills out into the surrounding area.

Some of the feedback stations around the room asked attendees to answer, “What is the Belk Plaza to you?” and “How do you move through the space?” People could also physically draw on a map what they wanted to be included in the space.

Other feedback stations utilized visual preference exercises where community members looked at posters with a variety of example images of aesthetics, design and program options and voted on which images they liked or didn’t like. People voted using stickers—green means good, red means bad—physically placing them under the example image in question.

For instance, an aesthetics poster had attendees take a stand on open space or separation, water fixtures, hardscape patterns, edge conditions and more. The program feedback station asked people to choose a preference between permanent or temporary art, fixed or movable seating and a plaza with or without a tower.

Some options amassed large amounts of green dots, indicating high interest by the community. One crowd favorite was a design featuring a wide open grassy space with cherry blossoms. The crowd also seemed to favor temporary or non-fixed elements in the plaza: Temporary art, movable seating and temporary food (food trucks, for example) all received many positive votes.

However, other options received nearly all negative votes. Several red stickers accompanied a design featuring virtually all red brick and no greenery. A joke about brick architecture from Petersheim’s presentation received a chuckle from the crowd.

For those who didn’t want to limit themselves to the images presented at the feedback stations, people could suggest their own images for LandDesign to store in its reference bank.

The two upcoming public forums will also take place in Lucas Room. At the next forum on Feb. 22, attendees can look forward to seeing the recently collected community input formulated into potential designs. Then, April 4, LandDesign will present a final conceptual plan, though they still plan to be receptive to feedback throughout this process.

According to Campus Landscape Architect Peter Franz, the final plan will go to the Board of Trustees sometime in August for approval. Approval from the state is also required before moving forward. Franz said the earliest time frame for construction to begin is probably late summer or early fall 2017.

Title IX and Center for Wellness Promotion staff discuss sexual assault on campus

The Annual Security Report recently released by the UNC Charlotte Police Department, showed 32 reported instances of rape and 7 reported instances of fondling on campus in 2014, a significant increase from the previous year’s combined total of 3 reported forcible sex offenses. According to Title IX Coordinator Dawn Floyd and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Specialist Nicole Madonna-Rosario, the increase does not mean that more of these incidents are occurring, just that victims and survivors feel more comfortable reporting.

As Title IX coordinator, Floyd is responsible for making sure the university complies with the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act and Title IX. Some aspects of that compliance include training for necessary employees, overseeing the investigation of complaints and reports and educational programming. Education is one of the ways Floyd ad Madonna-Rosario come together achieve campus-wide goals.

Madonna-Rosario organizes Title IX education, events and outreach programs related to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. She speaks to entire classrooms, but she also offers confidential one-on-one consultation with students who are considering reporting and aren’t sure where to turn.

Madonna-Rosario also helped coordinate an upcoming free screening in McKnight Hall of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary highlighting sexual assault on college campuses and lacking responses of some universities. The screening and subsequent panel discussion featuring Floyd and several other speakers occurs Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m.

Q: Why do you think there’s such a high increase of reports from 2013 to 2014?

Nicole Madonna-Rosario: I think that the concerted effort from the chancellor down to make this a priority on our campus – meaning education, providing care and concern accommodations, having a fulltime Title IX investigator, more staff in the counseling center, providing the services that are necessary for survivors to come forward and feel safe – I think that’s why more people are reporting. It’s not that it’s happening more. It’s just that now people know where to go.

Q: How does the Title IX Office handle the reports it receives?

Dawn Floyd: If there is a report of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct or dating violence, domestic violence or stalking, those reports are forwarded to my office and we coordinate the response. That response really involves a lot of folks. In part, the response involves coordinating the connection for the student with Assistant Dean of Students Larry Gourdine who can help them with academic accommodations or work accommodations or housing accommodations. What a lot of people don’t realize is that he can help students who miss an assignment or can’t get to class because of an incident. He coordinates with the faculty member to accommodate them in that area. We also coordinate connection of the student with people like Nicole who can help them with understanding sort of what’s happened and working through it and doing some safety planning and making sure that they’re safe. We talk to the student about going to the police. It’s ultimately the student’s choice whether to report their incident to the police, but we tell them that that is an option and we offer to help them if that’s what they want to do.

Q: How does the Title IX Office go about investigating?

DF: To what extent we investigate it depends on the victim or complainant’s wishes. Sometimes, we have victims who come in and report who don’t want there to be a full investigation; they just want some kind of accommodation. But sometimes we get folks in who really want us to do a full investigation, and they want us to take their case through the student conduct process and see that the accused person is sanctioned in some way for what he or she did. A lot of our response depends on what the victim or survivor wants. There is an exception to that, though. As the Title IX coordinator, I have the discretion to override the victim’s wishes if not investigating would put other folks or that particular victim in harm’s way – if we think we have a predator, for example. If a victim or survivor comes in and gives me a report about somebody and this is the second or third report I have on this person, and they seem to be engaging in a pattern of behavior and there seem to be multiple victims, I can override those victim’s wishes and move forward with an investigation and put that case through student conduct. The university has an obligation to do that when we feel like the safety of the community is threatened.

Q: On the one hand, it’s good to see the numbers go up, because people feel more comfortable reporting, but would you ultimately like them to go down?

DF: Part of the expectation that we have as a university receiving federal funds from the Department of Education and the Department of Justice is that we’re doing prevention awareness and education programs that actually make a difference – that really change the culture to where you are educating students about healthy relationships and how to be a safe and effective bystander. We really are taking very seriously this obligation to prevention programming that is effective in changing the culture here at UNC Charlotte. And what we hope to see is what you just said. As we step up our prevention awareness and education programming, we hope that our numbers will go down because what we’re doing through our prevention programming is preventing these incidents from happening in the first place. So yes, I think it’s going to take us a little time to get there, but hopefully, we’ll see a plateau and then a drop in our numbers.

NMR: And this is the first part of the cultural shift, though, because the victim blaming that’s embedded in the culture has prevented people for years from coming forward. For example, when I was an undergrad, no one talked about this. You didn’t come forward, and if you did, you were most of the time talked out of it because there were the questions of, ‘What were you doing? Were you drinking? Why were you out?’ There were lots and lots of questions from our peer groups. Now, the questions are shifting when people are talking to their friends. In fact, a lot of the students that I see either come from my presentations and programs directly or they come from someone who attended who was told by their friend, ‘You need to go talk to this person. She can help you.’ That’s a really good feeling to know that that’s what’s causing this ripple effect of increased reporting. It’s not that we have an increased problem – the problem has been there – we just haven’t had the resources to provide them a solution, and I think that’s what we’re doing.

DF: I’ll add, too, that I think our resources are effective. I think that people are learning that if they come to the Title IX office or to Nicole’s office that there won’t be any victim blaming and that we will take them seriously and that we will treat them with respect and treat them fairly. You can build the structures all day long but if within your structures you have people who continue to victim blame and the resources aren’t very effective because they don’t follow up and they don’t do everything that they need to be doing. We are really creating very positive places, under very difficult circumstances in many offices around campus. That is another reason why victims and survivors are coming forward.

Q: Sometimes police departments or colleges around the nation offer tips for safety – like what you should or shouldn’t wear – what kind of message do you think that sends?

NMR: To me, that takes the responsibility of the act away from the person who does it and makes the victim – him or herself – be the sole person in charge of the event, which is not true. In fact, several of my programs have that built into it, where we talk about the things that we’ve heard as prevention and safety tips growing up, some of which are fine. I mean, it’s fine to walk with a buddy or stay in well-lit areas. The issue is not necessarily words they’re saying; it’s the delivery of it. If you meet that whole checklist and you still get sexually assaulted, then the victim blames himself or herself completely. Instead, we should change the conversation to, ‘Why are we not talking about why this person is doing this to begin with?’

DF: That’s a huge part of what we’re doing in the Title IX office, particularly with investigations. One of the requirements under federal law is that we approach our investigations in a manner that is trauma-informed. Part of being trauma-informed includes understanding the neurobiology of trauma and understanding the impact that victim blaming can have – training investigators that accusatory questions about things that are irrelevant are not appropriate.

Q: One of the ideas introduced in “The Hunting Ground” is that serial perpetrators are often to blame for instances of sexual assault. What does your experience tell you about the typical perpetrator?

NMR: One person who has spearheaded that research is Dr. David Lisak. From his research, he came up with the term called “the undetected rapist,” and I believe he talks about that in this film. What he said was that the majority of men on college campuses are not committing these offenses at all. It’s the minority that tends to do it multiple times. He does give certain characteristics. One of the things that he says that stood out for him in his research is people who express disdain or hatred towards women in many different forms – jokes the language that they use … He also said they tend to be more confident, “Type A,” almost narcissistic in their beliefs about themselves and what they can offer the world. The groups in which they’re located have a huge influence. He tended to see a lot of rapes happening out of these surveyed men from athletic groups and fraternities. That’s also highlighted very much in this documentary.

Q: With perpetrators being overwhelmingly male, what do you think is the most important message to send to society if we want to reduce the numbers?

NMR: There is a male survivor in “The Hunting Ground,” and I think it’s important to have a wide lens when we look at the issue of sexual assault and sexual trauma because before the age of 18, one in six men are also victims compared to one in four women. That’s not a huge difference. The statistics drastically change for adulthood because men stop talking about it. Yes, documented, they tend to be in much greater numbers as perpetrators of these acts. But they’re also victims and survivors as well … There’s not really a space for male victims, and one of my longer term goals is to create a movement on campus to talk about healthy masculinity and what that looks like in your particular subset of friends or team or frat or whatever. What does that look like to go against the grain? Those other guys are out there, and no one is pushing against them to stop what they’re doing.

Q: How does the film take on the culture of fraternities?

NMR: “The Hunting Ground” is a very controversial film, and it’s meant to be, but it does not paint fraternity life in a very good way.

DF: Nor athletics.

NMR: And that’s one of the reasons why we’re cosponsoring with the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. It’s about challenging thinking. They feel like they’re on the defensive – that they shouldn’t have this reputation nationally. One of the first pieces of conversation I’m hoping will come out of this screening, especially with the panel discussion after, is that some of the fraternity members that are going to be there will say, “This angered me. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want this to happen.” How do you check some of the behaviors that happen within the culture of your organization and change that? It’s not all fraternities or all athletics, but groupthink makes it such that they have very high statistics. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the tide of it.

Q: The documentary highlights a lack of response by some universities, how does UNC Charlotte stack up to those claims?

NMR: The way that we’ve structured where we have confidential resources – the entire Student Health Center, my office, the entire Counseling Center – provides an enormous amount of options for students to report confidentially and at least talk about it and get the help that they need. Some of those students are never going to be ready to report it. They’re never going to want to report it, and that’s OK. When someone is sexually assaulted, specifically, the trauma reaction is so intense that they often feel like they’re going to lose their life in that moment, even if there’s not a weapon. The idea of taking away that person’s rights completely as to what they want to do is completely unhealthy for that person. One of the main things that we’ve done is provide safe spaces and places where people can go and talk about it and figure out what they might want to do, if anything.

DF: Probably the biggest group that we’re trying to get involved is the students. Research shows that the most effective prevention and bystander education programs are student-led. It goes back to this whole conversation that it’s on all of us to stop this stuff from happening. If we can get students involved and interested and educated, then I think we can all do a better job … We are totally open to ideas about how we can reach students and get their participation on these issues.


"The Hunting Ground" will be screened in McKnight Hall on Nov. 9. Photo courtesy of Chain Camera Pictures
“The Hunting Ground” will be screened in McKnight Hall on Nov. 9. Photo courtesy of Chain Camera Pictures

Reel Scary helps users pick the best horror movie for Halloween

If you’re looking for the perfect scary movie to watch for Halloween, a UNC Charlotte student has created just the resource for you. Scott Plybon, who is studying for his Master of Science in Information Technology, launched his website Reel Scary on Wednesday, allowing users to rate scary movies and find others that suit their specific tastes.

This isn’t your typical rating system, however. Users don’t rate whether films are good or bad. Rather, they rate the film based on three factors: disturb, gore and suspense, letting visitors find movies that speak to their preferred style of horror.

“I came up with the idea because my wife always tries to get me to watch scary movies by saying that they are not very scary, and I needed a way to determine if a movie was actually scary or not,” said Plybon. “I like scary movies but more tame ones – something likes “Signs,” as opposed to something really scary like “The Ring.”

Ethan Hawke in "Sinister." (Photo courtesy Summit Entertainment/TNS)
Ethan Hawke in “Sinister.” (Photo courtesy Summit Entertainment/TNS)

The homepage has a section for the most popular movies as well as ranking lists for each individual category. For instance, if you’re looking for the most disturbing movie, you’d want the 2008 French film “Martyrs.” If gore is your thing, “Hostel: Part II” takes the top spot. Lastly, for fans of suspense, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” reigns supreme.

If you want a recommendation from Plybon himself, he offers “The Babadook” as a solid choice.

According to Plybon, the website netted about 660,000 page views on just the first day of launch. News of Reel Scary has even spread to outlets like Business Insider and Boing Boing. Suffice it to say launch day went unexpectedly well.

“My day was filled with excitement, stress and trying to keep the site from crashing from all the traffic,” said Plybon. “It’s tough to say if the users will stick around, but I’m hopeful that they will.”

Halloween only comes once a year, and no one wants to be disappointed when they choose a movie to set the mood. Luckily, Reel Scary is here just in time to help you pick the best one for your horror tendencies. You can check it out for yourself at

Junior music student paves the way for organ majors at UNC Charlotte


According to junior Austin Philemon, the organ is not just for church music anymore. Philemon is so dedicated to playing the instrument that he’s become UNC Charlotte’s first, and currently only, organ performance major, crafting a curriculum as he goes that will open the door for future students.

He started playing piano when he was 6 years old but first encountered the sound of the organ at 12 years old while watching “The Phantom of the Opera.” His incessant replaying of the musical’s overture motivated his parents to get him organ lessons. Soon after, he began playing the organ for local church services, landing his first official job at 15 years old.

By the time he was a high school senior, he decided that focusing on the organ might be the unusual choice but the right choice for him.

“How many people get to say they’re an organ major?” said Philemon. “I thought I was going to be a piano major, but I just decided organ is so much more fun and so much more interesting, and now that I’ve really gotten into it, I just enjoy the repertoire so much more.”

The university did not offer the major when Philemon applied, but the process for traversing this uncharted academic territory was easier than one might think.

“Our music department is really flexible. We have a harp performance major even though we don’t have a harp teacher on faculty,” said Philemon. “The music theory professor also happens to be one of the greatest organists on the East Coast. We didn’t have an organ major but she’s this fantastic professor, so I decided to come in as her student, and we’re sort of working on the curriculum as we go.”

Philemon and organ instructor Jacqueline Yost began by simply tweaking the curriculum for piano majors. A few of the classes he simply shares with the piano students. However, they hope to also add to the major’s unique courses with an organ literature class to prepare for an influx of more interested students.

“We’re going to have more organ majors coming next year and in the future,” said Philemon. “Charlotte is set up as the perfect location for really good organ schools, so we’re trying to make it a real established thing.”

The American Guild of Organists, a national organization dedicated to enriching lives through organ music, has a Charlotte chapter, which Philemon notes is extremely active. Plus, there’s a high number of local churches featuring and looking for talented organists.

“The standard here is probably one of the highest on the East Coast, right next to New York City and Boston,” said Philemon. “It’s a great place for organists to come and learn their craft.”

And that craft, according to Philemon, produces more varied work than people give it credit for. Not only does the instrument act as its own orchestra, but also it’s essentially the original synthesize. Organists get to play music all the way from ancient Greek times to today; they aren’t restricted to playing tunes from the past.

“There are some crazy organ composers out right now that are making great stuff, and my goal is to bring the focus of organ music sort of away from the stereotypical ‘old lady playing really slowly in church’ to show how it’s actually really cool. I’m doing a lot of work with organ and electronics and organ synthesizer to sort of bridge that gap.”

Philemon hopes that his passion will be infectious in at least opening others’ minds to organ music. He is well aware of the preconceived notions many might have about the organ, but that does not stop him from championing his favorite instrument.

“It’s really important for people to know that this old, antique ‘grandmother’ instrument that’s perceived as just for boring church music is actually something that’s real and alive,” said Philemon. “People would be interested in if they just took the time to explore it … Not only is it a piece of heritage in history, but it’s a symbol of scientific innovation throughout thousands of years of music, and I think it’s something that can continue to be a trailblazer.”

Full menu Bojangles’ opens in the Student Union on Aug. 26, Panda Express still to come

Unlike the previous Bojangles' located in the Cone Center, this location will offer the restaurant's full menu. Photo by Chris Crews
Unlike the previous Bojangles’ located in the Cone Center, this location will offer the restaurant’s full menu. Photo by Chris Crews

UNC Charlotte’s full menu Bojangles’ will open for business on Aug. 26, just in time for the first week of classes and the waves of hungry new and returning students.

At the Student Union, Bojangles’ will be replacing Mamma Leone’s, which was closed for the summer to accommodate for necessary construction and remodeling. Unlike the Bojangles’ Express, which previously operated in the Cone Center’s Main Street Market, this location will offer a full menu (except a kids’ menu), including bone-in chicken.

Monday through Friday, Bojangles’ will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fans of Mamma Leone’s can still visit the Prospector location, which will remain in operation.

UNC Charlotte also plans to open a Panda Express and Panda Sushi in Main Street Market. The opening date for these restaurants is tentative, as the dining hours section of the Auxiliary Services website says they will “open after Labor Day.”

As part of the change, Main Street Market will no longer offer restaurants Use Your Noodle, Sushi With Gusto and Bojangles’ Express. However, in addition to Chinese cuisine, Panda Sushi will make sure students continue to get their desired Asian cuisine. In the meantime, Subway will remain a viable dining option in the Cone Center.

UNC Charlotte Business Services’ original plan to have all new dining options available in the fall is currently on track, but a firm date for Panda Express and Panda Sushi will be announced later.

The Campus Market offers students a safer alternative for buying and selling unwanted items

CAMPUS MARKETThe Campus Market is a college-centric Craigslist-like service that aims to prioritize student safety while reducing their carbon footprint. According to their website, The Campus Market is operational at 22 universities along the east coast – seven of which are North Carolina schools, including UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington and Duke. UNC Charlotte students can expect access to the website soon, as co-founder Brad Stinson is currently planning on having the service available by the end of August.

Stinson and co-founder Heather Morrow are both from North Carolina, which explains the prevalence of availability in our state.

“We thought this would be a good starting point because it made it easier for us, in the beginning, to reach out to students and schools that we could physically visit,” said Stinson.

They founded the company in January 2015, motivated by the abundance of students throwing away their lightly used belongings, as well as the low return students usually see when selling back their textbooks.

“We knew that if we created an environment that could be used by students for these purposes, they would come,” said Stinson.

Despite being a fairly recent startup, students have come. Since the company’s launch, the website has gained over 17,000 registered users, and Stinson expects to have over 30,000 students registered by the end of September. With this school year rapidly approaching, he’s confident in more growth, saying it has “no signs of slowing down” and the number of successful transactions between students “will increase exponentially.”

But what sets The Campus Market apart from Craigslist and other similar swap ‘n shop services?

Most notably, the company is unique in its focus on student safety, its dedication to sustainability and its decision to partner with local businesses.

On the safety issue, The Campus Market requires students to sign up with their school-specific .edu email address. This measure filters out students who attend other universities, as well as people who aren’t college students. Further, it eliminates the hassle and worry of driving long distances to meet up with potentially shady buyers and sellers.

Regarding sustainability, the company aims to reduce unnecessary wastefulness and increase money in students’ pockets. Anyone who has paid attention around move out time at the end of the school year has noticed dumpsters filled with lamps, chairs, desks and so on. The option to buy and sell within the local campus community might save these gently used items from a needless trip to the landfill.

A section dedicated to ridesharing and carpooling also serves to cut down on carbon emissions and foster ties between fellow students.

And when it’s finally time to get rid of those textbooks (or leave them on the shelf to collect dust), selling directly to another student could net a bigger return than the campus bookstore would offer, as well as save the buyer a considerable amount of money.

Lastly, The Campus Market plans to partner with local businesses, designating them as pick up spots for students who want to complete transactions in public. The participating businesses will see an increase in foot traffic, and Stinson hopes to provide students who utilize the pick up spots with discounts.

Students can sign up for The Campus Market here:

Charlotte 49ers assistant football coach Phil Ratliff dies

Charlotte 49ers Offensive Line Coach Phil Ratliff died Sunday at the age of 44.

Ratliff joined the 49er football program on Jan. 1, 2012 and coached for the team’s first three seasons.

Charlotte 49er Athletics released the following statement:

“The Charlotte 49ers regretfully announce the passing of coach Phil Ratliff, today. He was surrounded by family and friends. His adoring wife, Jenni, was by his side.

He was an amazing man and was loved by all who knew him. We appreciate the continued thoughts and prayers for the Ratliff family. They are beyond grateful for the overwhelming love and support.

The family appreciates your respect for their privacy during this difficult period.”

He’s survived by his wife, Jenni, and children, Haley and Dylan. Memorial service arrangements have yet to be announced.

Reactions from Twitter:

‘Corpse flower’ blooms in UNC Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse

UNC Charlotte’s second titan arum – also called the “corpse flower” for its powerful rotting flesh odor – bloomed July 17 at McMillan Greenhouse. The event attracted visitors hoping to witness the 5-foot-4-inch plant and smell its notable scent, which can reportedly travel up to half a mile away.

Named Odoardo – “Odie,” for short – after Odoardo Beccari who discovered the titan arum in 1878, this plant is a rare exhibit as it’s native only to the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.

In captivity, titan arums are expected to bloom about two or three times. In 2007 and 2010, UNC Charlotte’s first titan arum, “Bella,” bloomed and also attracted crowds – about 4,000 people – looking to experience its signature stench. The university obtained two more titan arums in 2008.

This event is unique as another nearby garden – Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont – had its own corpse flower bloom July 13. Horticulturists at Daniel Stowe allowed staff at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens to collect pollen from its titan arum.

Odie bloomed Friday, July 17 around noon at UNC Charlotte's McMillan Greenhouse. Photo by Jordan Snyder
Odie bloomed Friday, July 17 around noon at UNC Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse. Photo by Jordan Snyder

“When we found out one was blooming at Stowe, we just couldn’t believe it,” said UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens Interim Director Paula Gross. “I mean, what are the chances of that? And then the fact that our two gardens could collaborate.”

Greenhouse Manager John Denti will attempt to pollinate Odie by gently painting the pollen samples on its female flowers. If pollination is successful, Odie will die, but it will produce berries with two to three seeds each.

The hope is that they will be planted, germinated and possibly ready to bloom in eight to 12 years. If all goes to plan, they will share some of these plants with Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens and other institutions. And according to Gross, for a plant like the titan arum that’s being threatened in its native habitat, it’s important to maintain genetic diversity for the plant to promote its long term survival.

“The web of life on Earth depends on all this diversity. It’s the diversity of that organic life that keeps our planet stable,” said Gross. “Life on Earth is worth preserving.”

Panda Express, full menu Bojangles’ coming to UNC Charlotte in fall 2015

The Student Union Mamma Leone's location will be replaced by a full menu Bojangles'. NT File Photo
In the fall semester, Bojangles’ will be replacing the Student Union Mamma Leone’s location. NT File Photo

UNC Charlotte plans to open a Panda Express at Cone Center’s Main Street Market and a full menu Bojangles’ at the Student Union. There is currently no timeline for completion, but demolition is currently underway in the Cone Center.

As part of the change, Main Street Market will no longer offer restaurants Use Your Noodle, Sushi With Gusto and Bojangles’ Express. However, in addition to Chinese cuisine, Panda Express will also provide sushi.

At the Student Union, Bojangles’ will be replacing Mamma Leone’s, which has already been closed for the summer. Unlike the Bojangles’ Express in Main Street Market, this location will offer a full menu (except a kids’ menu), including bone-in chicken.

UNC Charlotte Business Services plans on opening the new restaurants in fall 2015, but specific date announcements will not be made until closer to the start of the school year.

OP-ED: Men will be boys

Why is it that men are so hesitant to speak out in support of feminism? That’s easy: they don’t know what it means.

Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality. If you agree with that, you’re a feminist. However, when many men hear the word “feminism,” they think they’re being attacked and automatically go on the defensive.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll, only 15 percent of men identified as feminists before hearing the word’s definition. After hearing the definition, the number grew to 51 percent. Though this figure is still disappointing, it goes to show that a simple misunderstanding can cause significant division over this important issue.

But more than just vocally supporting feminism, it’s time that men took responsibility for all the harm that men have caused and continue to cause to women and take steps to reverse it.

Onstage, comedian Louis CK asked, “How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? Globally and historically we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them.”

Just for comparison, the comedian continued, “You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.”

But a woman doesn’t have to be going out with a guy to experience that harm. There’s a reason why only 62 percent of women compared to 89 percent of men said they feel safe walking alone at night in the area where they live, according to a 2012 Gallup report.

Maybe it’s because, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”

Or perhaps it’s because “approximately two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.”

But to top it all off, RAINN reports that only 3 percent of rapists will ever serve time in prison.

The numbers are disconcerting. Women are embedded in a culture where the threat of assault is tangible, where someone they know or trust might be the perpetrator and where the justice system fails them far too often. And people still have the gall to victim blame and slut shame.

Let’s shift the blame to the men who commit these terrible acts and encourage the men who don’t to speak up in condemnation of that type of behavior.

Many men are racked by a childish sense of entitlement, like a little boy throwing a tantrum in the toy aisle. Men, you are not entitled, for any reason, to have sex with someone. You paid for dinner? How generous. But no, that’s not a ticket for sex.

A woman you saw on the street was wearing a short skirt? So what? Unless a woman is literally asking for it (i.e. “Do you want to have sex with me?” or some other variation of consent), she’s not “asking for it.”

A woman is not a bitch because she won’t go out with you. And if that’s your response to rejection, she obviously made the right call.

A woman is not a slut because she had sex with someone who isn’t you.

And why do we need to teach men not to rape? Seriously, don’t rape.

All of this should be common sense, but in a power-hungry patriarchal society like ours, any blow to a man’s ego that touches a sense of inferiority is bound to send him reeling.

Changing this hypermasculine paradigm will be a difficult but admirable goal. But for men who want this change, too, it’s time to speak up and shame this immaturity that leads to atrocities.

A nonbeliever in the Bible Belt

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center had Americans rate different religious groups on a “feeling thermometer,” ranging from zero (cold, negative feelings) to 100 (warm, positive feelings). While a “feeling thermometer” sounds like a fun activity that could have been pulled from a kindergarten lesson plan to show the merits of togetherness and equality, the data produced by this survey is actually disheartening.

Unsurprisingly, Americans tend to favor Jews, Catholics and Evangelical Christians the most (rated 63, 62 and 61, respectively). But where do I – your friendly neighborhood atheist – fit on the scale?

Oh. Atheists are the second lowest ranked group with a cool 41 – beat out just barely by Muslims with a ranking of 40. That’s a full 20 points of separation from the top three. I don’t want to speak on behalf of Muslims, as I have no experience in their shoes, but I’ll just say, “It’s a little chilly down here on the bottom, so thanks for the company.”

I’ll say this straight away, as an atheist in the Bible Belt, my life could be drastically worse than it is. It’s not unheard of in this corner of the country for young atheists to be kicked out of the house, cut off financially or even completely disowned. Luckily, I’ve got it pretty easy, but it’s not all sunshine and smiles.

Similar to the struggle for LGBT individuals, it can be terrifying deciding to “come out” as atheist. Do you want it to be a slow process or like ripping off a bandage? Will you tell some people, but hide it from others? You never know what kind of reaction you’ll get – tears, anger, confusion, a subtle squirm of discomfort.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to keep it to yourself?

How unfair is that? Just to avoid the awkward discussions and potential rejection, I’ve got to hide this important part of my life or even pretend to be something I’m not.

The Pew survey shows that older age groups and Republicans rank atheists even lower than the overall score of 41. It just so happens that these subgroups match up perfectly with my extended family.

No matter how much I want to connect with my family, there will always be this invisible barrier between us, because no matter the occasion, a Southern family finds ways to inject little bits of religious ideology into the conversation. I’m not arguing that they should become any less religious but that they should understand how alienating that type of behavior can be.

Although the familial relationships are healthy on a superficial level, pretty often I feel like I don’t belong. But, hey, at least I have the freedom to keep my eyes open during the Thanksgiving gathering prayer – they’re all too devout to open theirs and catch me. That’s a fleeting moment of relief.

Another interesting bit of data showed that respondents were more likely to view atheists better (a 50 on the scale) if they knew one personally; consequently, the score went even lower (a 29 on the scale) if they didn’t know anyone from that group.

That could be a major part of the problem – people with no personal frame of reference create their own idea of what an atheist is. Back when I considered myself a Christian, just hearing the word “atheist” evoked a negative, nauseating feeling inside me. I knew that meant they didn’t believe in God, and that was bad, and I probably shouldn’t trust them. It’s easy to dehumanize an entire group of people that way.

All these years later, I’m on the other side of the fence, but I still know that those thoughts race through a believer’s mind when they realize I don’t believe in God. I’m friendly, accepting and an advocate for more love and less hate in the world. I’m sure if people got to know me, they would see that our theological differences aren’t that important when it comes to getting along.

But here’s the catch-22: If nonbelievers would come out, believers would view them more positively, but nonbelievers are too worried to come out because believers view them negatively.

We could all gain from being more accepting. We might disagree on what happens after we die, but that shouldn’t stop us from being friends while we’re alive.

Millennials are tired of toeing the party line

George Washington warned about the dangers of the party system in his presidential farewell speech. With the stubbornness of today’s partisan politics, is it any wonder why the congressional approval rating is at an embarrassingly low 15 percent? But when it comes time to vote, voters overwhelmingly continue to choose the candidates that most rigidly adhere to the established party structures.

As unlikely as electing a non-traditional or third party candidate sounds, the millennial generation might be the key to making it a reality. More likely, though, we will see a shift in one or both of the main party platforms to adopt the values of this generation of young voters.

The Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennial Survey collected responses from 2,000 young adults ages 18-29, bringing to light numerous political tendencies of this generation. Most notably, 34 percent of millennials self-identify as independent – over triple the rate of older cohorts.

They tend to be socially liberal and fiscally centrist, with social values being the defining factor in selecting one’s political label (i.e., considering oneself liberal for supporting gay marriage while not necessarily being financially liberal).

They also don’t trust either of the two parties when it comes to effectively handling numerous issues, from privacy to drug policy to education. The survey report breaks down the level of trust on each individual issue – Democrats see some favor on issues like gay marriage, poverty and the environment – but in total, 28 percent of responders said they didn’t trust either party on any of the 14 issues surveyed.

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus.
Photo courtesy of Reason-Rupe.

Such high levels of distrust show that millennials desire leadership that isn’t currently available, but until it is, they view the Democratic Party as the “better of two bad options.”

In fact, 53 percent of those surveyed said they would support a socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate, which bodes well for Libertarians. This young cohort – 80 million strong – helped push over the first domino on issues like gay marriage and recreational marijuana legalization. Eventually, one of the parties is going to have to adopt the values of the millennials.

Can the Republican Party shift its rigid, backwards social platform in time to win over this new demographic? Probably not. The more enmeshed the GOP becomes with religion, the less willing they will be to compromise their “traditional values.”

Rather, in the years to come, I think we can expect to see a more fiscally moderate Democratic Party. Until then, the party’s social policies will make sure most millennials begrudgingly vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

For parents and pet owners, the dangers of hot, parked cars are real

In this sweltering North Carolina heat, I can think of plenty of ways to escape or coexist with the merciless summer sun: cooling off by the pool, taking a shady walk down the greenway or relaxing in my air-conditioned apartment. You’ll notice I didn’t list “trapping myself in a hot, parked car” because, well, isn’t it obvious? No one would ever willingly subject himself or herself to that kind of torture. So why do we still hear about people leaving their pets and even their own children in the dangerously intense heat of a parked car on a summer day?

On July 8, a 31-year-old mother left her two children, a 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, in the car in a Charlotte Walmart parking lot without the engine running. She was charged with one count of child abuse.

And we’ve all seen or heard stories of pets left in cars with the windows rolled up and the engine off. If you must leave your pet in the car, at least have the decency to run the air conditioner.

If common sense isn’t compelling enough, there are other valuable examples, which show just how terrible the conditions are.

A family in nearby Lancaster, S.C. tragically learned the devastating effects when their 3-year-old son, Logan Cox, accidentally trapped himself and his dog inside a hot car for 30 minutes before being found. The dog had already died, and Logan died days later in the hospital. Their loss just goes to show how real the danger and consequences are.

Earlier this month, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward posted a video to YouTube to demonstrate the effects of a hot, enclosed vehicle firsthand; the video has since received over one million views.

In the video, Dr. Ward records himself sitting in a parked car with a thermometer to describe how it feels and document the drastically increasing temperature. After 30 minutes in the car, the temperature had risen from 94 degrees to 117 degrees. He mentioned that although cracking the windows an inch or two sounds like it might help, it did not provide any additional breeze or comfort.

It’s shocking that something this obvious still needs to be advocated for, but people continue to leave their pets or children unattended as they run into the store. Before you start thinking that just a couple of minutes won’t hurt, remember: Hot, parked cars can kill.

Robin Thicke aims for romantic but comes off ridiculous

It was about a year ago when Robin Thicke’s jaunty hit “Blurred Lines” took over the airwaves and stirred up controversy. Catchy though the song was, its repeated use of lines like “I know you want it” disturbed many listeners who thought the lyrics encouraged rape culture. It didn’t help that in a GQ interview in May 2013, he agreed that the song was degrading to women, but said in his defense, “I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.”

Regardless of the controversy, the song blew up and perhaps Thicke’s ego went with it. Some of his behavior in the following months seemed anything but respectful to women for someone who claims to be “happily married” to actress Paula Patton. A photo leaked showing Thicke firmly groping another woman’s backside with an almost penetrating grasp. Other photos show the singer getting up close and personal with yet another woman.

In February 2014, Thicke and Patton separated, but Thicke has been (very publicly) trying to win her back ever since. He claims that cheating is not the cause of the separation. He said, “There’s a hundred different reasons…I changed and I got a little too selfish, too greedy, too full of myself.” I have to imagine that the behavior exhibited in the leaked photographs is one of the hundred reasons.

You might not know this about Thicke and Patton, but they’ve been together for 20 years, married for nine, and they have a four-year-old son. It’s understandable that Thicke would want to do everything in his power to right his numerous wrongs. But his method of spilling the details of his love life into the public sphere, which many have deemed creepy, comes off as manipulative and unfair Paula Patton.

His new album, titled “Paula,” is dedicated to her, and it shows. With song titles like “You’re My Fantasy,” “Love Can Grow Back” and the most recent hit from the album “Get Her Back,” it’s clear that he’s wearing his heart on his track list.

The music video for “Get Her Back” is just a mishmash of bad decisions in the form of an apology. It opens on Thicke sporting a bloodied-nose, perhaps meant to indicate his damaged state, but it almost seems like he’s making himself out to be a victim. It also features scantily clad women rubbing their hands all over his bare chest – not exactly what you would expect from an apology.

But the most upsetting aspects of the video are the overlaid text message exchanges, presumably real conversations between Thicke and Patton. That is not cool. At this point, he has shown a complete disregard for her privacy. I’m not saying his apology is disingenuous – it was probably an act of desperation and poor judgment – but it comes off as an emotional ploy to get fans on his side. Inevitably, some viewers will be swayed, saying, “Aw! This is so sweet! Look how sad he is! She should take him back!” It’s a perverse turning of the tables where the wronged partner is drawn into the spotlight and pressured into giving some sort of response, lest she appear to be coldhearted.

This is perpetuating a problematic idea – that it’s not only acceptable for a man to drag his partner’s personal life into the spotlight, but that it’s brave and romantic, too.

In an appearance on “Good Morning America” on July 2, Thicke admitted he didn’t have a carefully thought out game plan. “I actually have no idea what I’m doing,” Thicke said. And there you have the one sound bite that ties up all of his recent issues in a neat, little bow.

I don’t think Robin Thicke is a terrible guy, but I do think that statement is the most truthful thing he’s said so far. He has no idea what he’s doing, but I can’t think of a better time for him to learn a little humility because until he does, he will continue doing more harm than good to his own image, his marriage and the ideology of his more impressionable fans.