Margaret Rawlings


901 Place shooting

On March 18, Jamontae Morris was injured and later pronounced dead from a fatal shooting at an apartment complex near the UNC Charlotte.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said the shooting was the result of an argument outside the complex of 901 Place Apartments on Forty Niner Avenue around 8 p.m. The fight escalated quickly between Morris and another man, leaving Morris wounded in the doorway where had been standing.

When police arrived, Morris was in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. Morris was transported to the hospital by Medic and on March 19 was declared deceased by medical personnel at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center.

Witnesses said the sound of gun shots sent them scrambling after they heard a dozen shots. “While living here nobody wants to be in an unsafe environment,” said a witness.

901 Place is student-housing and is not open to non-residents, as it is a gated community.

Many residents hope that the apartment complex will enforce stricter security and entry access.

Crime Scene Search has responded to process the scene and collect physical evidence. Police have not yet released a suspect description and the investigation into this incident is active and ongoing.

No arrests have been made at this time. As additional information develops, it will be released by the CMPD’s Public Affairs Office.

Studying the art of sleep

Sleep medicine has been gaining popularity, making an entrance into universities in the North Carolina area. UNC Charlotte and UNC Chapel Hill have teamed up to develop a sleep science degree to give students an opportunity to study diseases that affect the sleep/wake cycle, the nervous system and psychiatric and behavioral disorders.

The Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Science bachelor’s degree is a two-year online program designed for students who have previously earned an associate’s degree at a community college. Once a student has completed a required two-year training in sleep medicine or neurodiagnostics from a community college, they can become a registered sleep technologist and complete a board exam. Following these prerequisites, they may apply to earn their bachelor’s in NDSS.

The program began accepting applicants in 2011 and within a two year span it produced a graduating class with the first sleep science degree of its kind in the world. These students endured a curriculum dedicated to recording and studying the electrical activity of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, the function of the cardiovascular system, and the function of the respiratory system. The program provides students with the advanced knowledge of sleep science that they need to later engage in roles of managerial, leadership and teaching positions in the sleep medicine field.

The UNC Sleep Disorders Center is one of many opportunities for students with an NDSS degree. This center is made up of a team of sleep neurologists that focus on treating and researching various sleep disorders. This team offers an array of services to people who have trouble sleeping too much or too little, those who suffer from limited function during the day from tiredness and sleep walking.

“These are the people who are changing the face of sleep medicine,” said Mary Ellen Wells, the degree’s Program Director.

Dr. Brad Vaughn, Director of the UNC Sleep Disorders Center, describes the process of the individualized treatment plans for patients as one of the most complete studies currently performed in North Carolina. When a new patient visits the center, they undergo appropriate testing for their sleeping patterns, which could involve an overnight sleep study. During the course of the study, doctors measure over 25 different parameters to later determine the necessary care needed. Along with treating patients, the center also does a handful of research ranging from therapeutic trials to psychological projects and the team also observes the influence that abnormal sleep has on the brain.

Wells clarifies that we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping and approximately a quarter of the population is impacted by sleep disorders. Sleep plays an essential role in your health and well-being throughout the course of your life. Getting enough quality sleep has many benefits, including caring for your physical and mental health, quality of life and personal safety.

“One of the things about sleep disorders is it’s something in which you can intervene and get a lot of benefit for people.” said Dr. Heidi Roth, Co-Director of the UNC Sleep Clinic.

With the collaboration of these two universities, the study of sleep science has evolved from the unfamiliar to a now advanced and well known practice that is allowing emerging students to contribute to the well-being of those around them.

UNC Charlotte student arrested for selling drugs out of his dorm room via Snapchat

UNC Charlotte student Bennett Trace Phillips was arrested on Thursday, Feb. 14 for selling drugs out of his dorm room using Snapchat. Phillips was arrested by UNC Charlotte Police and taken into Mecklenburg County Police custody at 6:00 p.m. Phillips currently has an unsecured bond of $2,500.

In November 2018, an anonymous tip reported Phillips’ drug business. In the last two weeks, a second person came forward to tell the police that Phillips was selling marijuana regularly on campus and kept his products in a double-lock safe that was hidden inside his freezer.

These tips prompted authorities to investigate further. A police informant added Phillips on Snapchat in order to catch the student in the act of distribution. According to investigators, Phillips used the username ‘Lowkey_Milk’ on Snapchat and posted multiple stories including drug-related items for sale. Police obtained a search warrant and searched Phillips’ dorm in Hawthorn Hall and found LSD and marijuana as well as drug paraphernalia.

Phillips was arrested and charged with four felonies for drug possession and trafficking, and one misdemeanor. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 8, 2019. No additional information on the case has been published at this time.



Tenth Annual Blood Drive

During a month when blood donations are especially scarce, the 2019 49ers4Life blood drive took place Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 in the Student Activity Center.

Multiple UNC Charlotte student organizations and other university units helped to coordinate the blood drive this past week, giving all students, faculty, alumni and community members twice the opportunity to respond to the great need for donations.

“Winter is one of the toughest times for the American Red Cross to collect enough blood to meet patient needs,” said Jillian Butler, Donor Recruitment Manager for the American Red Cross. “When the UNC Charlotte community comes together for this drive, they can help boost the blood supply and ultimately offer hope to sick children, cancer patients and accident victims.”

In previous years, the 49ers4Life blood drive has come close to its goal but never quite hit the mark. Hilda Hiott with the American Red Cross says, “This year, they came close to reaching the goal of 700 pints by collecting 591 pints of blood.”

This donation will make a big difference during a time when blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, making every bit count.

According to the American Red Cross, one pint of blood can help save up to three lives, which means that university donors could help save more than 2,100 lives by reaching their goal.

Those who came out to show support for the 49ers received an “I Bleed 49ers Green” long-sleeved T-shirt and were entered into drawings for spirit gear from Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte and a parking permit for the academic year of 2019. Presenting donors were also provided with free food from several area restaurants.

“Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries,” said Maya Franklin with the American Red Cross. “Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.”

The American Red Cross encourages the Charlotte community and people around the world to roll up their sleeves and bleed green. The process only takes about one hour to give the gift of life.

From prominent protestor to popular politician

The Young Americans For Liberty hosted Councilman Braxton Winston here at UNC Charlotte on Jan. 16. The student organization strives to advance liberty on campus and in American electoral politics. This libertarian group’s four-step mission is to identify, educate, train and mobilize youth activists.

During the event, Winston spoke about his own political journey, the militarization of police, aspects of criminal justice reform, the drug war, the racial bias within the criminal justice system and how each of these issues restricts individual liberty.

Winston was born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where his father was stationed in the United States Marine Corps and his mother was a teacher at a public school. When his father retired from service, Winston and his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York. As a child of a Marine and an elementary school teacher, the significance of education, public service and a strong work ethic were instilled in Winston at an early age. In years following, Winston furthered his education at Davidson College where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and was also a two-time letterman on the football team.

Before becoming a politician, Winston was an activist during the 2016 protest over the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Echoing the Black Lives Matter rallies during previous years, protesters in Charlotte took to the streets in a call for an end to inequality and police brutality against people of color. During the protest, Winston was captured in the center of a moving image, where he stood shirtless and with his fist raised, facing a line of police wearing riot gear and holding batons. This photograph captivated many by memorializing Winston as a prominent figure of the protest.

“I know the fist did make a statement. It allowed me to say everything I wanted to say,” Winston said. He explained how his life changed on that night alongside Charlotte’s trajectory as a whole.

Although Winston says that the photo did not directly cause him to run for City Council, he explains that his presence at various protests and his willingness to get involved put him in contact with community leaders.

Faced with the question of “If not now, then when?” Winston took advantage of his growing popularity and ran for public office. Nearly a year after the protest, Winston was elected in 2017 as an at-large member and is serving his first term on Charlotte City Council. Winston strives to end inequalities in Charlotte by executing involvement for those communities who have, in the past, been left out of the decision-making process. In doing so, he hopes to change the civic system to get more people to participate and pledges to promote new leadership within our surrounding communities.

“There is no right way to be an activist,” said Winston. “I believe that conversation is action, and with the willingness of people, we can direct that action specifically to fix those systems.”

Winston encourages people to voice their opinions by remaining elevated and informed of what is happening around you in your city, by supporting others in making a change and by staying involved in your community.

Reflecting on his past encounters, Winston said there was a lesson to be learned, not only for himself, but for others as well.

“I want people to take from the picture that I’m willing to have the uncomfortable and inconvenient conversations,” he said. “I’m willing to stand up for everybody to have those conversations.

“I think that’s the idea of America. We have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones and stand in the middle and try to find some common ground, however difficult or painful that may be.”

UNC Charlotte alumna appears on The Ellen Show

Emily Francis, a familiar face from right here in the Charlotte area, excitedly made her way down from the audience as Ellen DeGeneres called her to the stage. From raising her four siblings for years in a shack in Guatemala, to migrating to the United States, to graduating from UNC Charlotte with a degree in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), Francis’ story would charm the entire audience.

Francis was selected as a guest because of her kindness and dedication to her students. She strives to make sure her students value their culture as much as she does hers. A former Cabarrus County Schools Teacher of the Year, Francis moved from Guatemala to United States when she was just 15-years-old.

Francis and her family encountered many hardships living in Guatemala where they were one family among thousands to be living in poverty. Francis’ mother struggled to get by, selling only fruits to provide for her family. At the young age of just 13-years-old, her mother left Emily to tend to her four other siblings as she made way to the United States in search for a better life for her family.

When time came for Francis and her siblings to join her mother in America, she was presented with a reality check. Francis frowns in saying, “I was a 15 year old with a 6th grade education and spoke little English.” Knowing that much work was ahead of her to adapt to such a different environment, Francis spent countless late nights reading and making sure she understood her homework, only to be mistreated by teachers who thought of her as an outsider because of the language barrier.

“It took me one and a half years to learn English,” she shares, giving credit to both “The Ellen Show” and “Friends” for contributing to her learning process by serving as entertaining ways to learn English. After completing the English Language Arts test, Francis was on the track to gain the credits she needed to graduate from high school. Obtaining the 42 credits needed, she thought the day had come – only to be faced with yet another required exam that she was unable to pass.

Having family in the Cabarrus County area, Emily relocated and enrolled at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in 2000 where she obtained her GED. During this time, she got the opportunity to work at Bass Pro Shop at Concord Mills. In hopes of a better future, she applied to Cabarrus County Schools but said, “I thought there was no way in the world I would ever get the job.”

Shocked to get the call from Mt. Pleasant Elementary, Francis was given the opportunity to come in for an interview for a 1st grade teacher’s assistant position. Throughout the next eight years, she excelled as she gained experience through working with her students in the classroom as a TA, then went on to complete her associate’s degree, earned a bachelor’s in Spanish, then finished off right here at UNC Charlotte with a master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Francis’ dreams were made a reality when she was given the opportunity to become an ESL teacher at W.M. Irvin School in Concord, North Carolina in 2012. Recognizing her as a deserving individual with so much fortitude, The Chobani Foundation presented her with an award of $100,000 while on “The Ellen Show” to go towards her school’s backpack program. Her reaction was priceless.

UNC System President Spellings’ Comprehensive Tour

Margaret Spellings, president of the 17-campus UNC system, launched her State of the University Address Tour in March 2018. Spellings began the tour with UNC Charlotte and made her way to eight campuses across the state of North Carolina.

Spellings’ tour was intended to reflect on the recent initiatives taking place within the UNC System schools and to highlight the system’s current successes. Her address, attended by an audience of city and state education, business, nonprofit and political leaders, focused on accountability, mobility and public good as the principles that drive the work and goals of the UNC System.

“This tour will reach every region in the state, from Wilmington’s coastal dunes to Cullowhee’s mountain hollows, giving the UNC-system multiple opportunities to reach every community and communicate the road ahead for a strong and essential pillar of our state’s economy and society,” Spellings’ media representatives said in a press release.

Spellings highlighted Charlotte’s ability to tackle the challenges of economic mobility, describing it as “the most defining issue of our time.” She emphasized the state’s willingness to face the challenges of increasing opportunity for all its citizens, especially UNC Charlotte’s role in doing so.

“A student from the bottom quintile who enrolls at UNC Charlotte is nearly six times more likely to reach the top quintile after they leave than a student who doesn’t pursue higher education,” Spellings said. “When we do what we’re supposed to — reaching talented students from all backgrounds, getting them in the door, helping them graduate — college works. It changes lives, lifts families and transforms communities.”

In her speech, Spellings emphasized that the key to increasing access to students in different demographics of North Carolina is to ensure affordability. Western Carolina University, UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State University have dropped their tuition to $500 per semester with the support of the UNC Board of Governors and university chancellors. Additionally, Spellings spoke on behalf of UNC Charlotte’s financial aid initiatives, the 49ers Finish the program and the Gold Rush program, all of which assist students in completing the final stages of their degrees.

Spellings further reported on the new methods of data collection and reporting that the UNC system has put in place for its public universities. She shared that these approaches will help the universities to ensure accountability, guide them in effective planning and monitor year-to-year progress.

“UNC Charlotte has crafted a performance plan that will graduate 30 percent more low-income students by 2022; increase the five-year graduation rate by 6 percent; grow total research funding by 44 percent; and produce 34 percent more critical workforce credentials in teaching, science, technology, and health care,” Spellings shared.

As Spellings brought her speech to an end, she reminded the UNC Charlotte audience of the mission that the UNC System has set forth in order to advance the public good. “By focusing on our shared values; by deploying our public institutions to create opportunity and improve lives; by holding ourselves accountable to our highest ideals and aspirations — we can restore public trust,” Spellings said.

Spellings concluded her tour in spring of 2018 and is confident that she will be standing before the same universities in coming years to report an even stronger, more effective University of North Carolina System.

“The state of the University of North Carolina System is strong,” said President Spellings. “Known as a world-class teaching and research enterprise, the System propels this state forward by empowering students, driving innovation, and enriching North Carolina’s communities. It’s an impact that will only grow in the years ahead.”