Max Young

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2020 Republican National Convention will occur during first week of classes

As 2020 presidential prospects begin to announce their candidacy in the coming months, Charlotte will be preparing for the Republican National Convention set for late August. Charlotte City Council voted this past summer to host the convention in a 6-5 deliberation.

The RNC, looking to re-nominate Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump this fall, has Charlotteans skeptical on how the city will manage an overflow of supporters. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, wants to show that the city itself has the ability to host the convention while remaining politically neutral. She said in a public address last month, regarding winning the bid for the convention, that “any time we can bring jobs to people, particularly our hourly-wage workers, any time we can showcase our city to potential business and opportunities that they can see in our community, but more importantly, what we can showcase in Charlotte is the open discussion we are willing to have … that makes a city special.” Charlotte’s City Council is looking for bipartisan support on putting Charlotte on center stage for the entire nation.

Political conventions bring in large amounts of capital. Since the DNC in 2012, Charlotte has developed several barren lots into parks and stadiums. Locations previously used for convention events were transformed into the Romare Bearden Park, BB&T Ballpark and First Ward Park next to the UNC Charlotte Center City campus. Fourteen new skyscrapers have been built since the 2012 DNC that will be open during the RNC to show off the famous Charlotte skyline. One of the most prominent city investments is the extension of the LYNX light rail. The influx of capital seems to be the main incentive for hosting the convention for both parties. As the Charlotte Observer put it, “Forget red and blue: Most of the arguments in favor of bringing the 2020 Republican National Convention to Charlotte are focused on green.”

UNC Charlotte scholars discuss the RNC

The presence of the RNC will be an opportunity for UNC Charlotte students to experience the colorful and differing ideas that the convention will offer. Members of the UNC Charlotte community are mobilizing to ensure that voters have information about the goals of each political party. Local UNC Charlotte scholars and leaders, such as political science professors Eric Heberlig and Suzanne Lelan along with Charlotte attorney Robert Hagemann, held informal presentations focused on stimulating public discourse. UNC Charlotte’s Director of Public Policy said to Inside UNC Charlotte, “[Political banter] also plays a vital role in engaging the public, informing them of important public policy debates and drawing them to the polls.”

The first of these talks focused on the future, looking into how the RNC will impact the Charlotte community. The second panel will be produced by the “We’re the Future, We Vote” campaign, focused on motivating voters, and Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson to educate Charlotteans on how elections work. Betty Doster, special assistant to the chancellor for constituent relations at UNC Charlotte, has stayed in contact with the RNC to connect it with the University.

“We have had several meetings with the host committee, Charlotte in 2020, about how the University can engage in a non-partisan way in the upcoming convention,” she said. “We have also met with The Washington Center for Academic Seminars and expect to be their academic partner.”

RNC impact on campus

The RNC is set to begin on move-in day and will coincide with other campus events, such as the New Student Convocation, inevitably impacting the transportation and movement of students and their families. The position of the University is to rely on the light rail to transport students and alleviate traffic congestion. 

“A big difference from the 2012 convention for the City and for our campus is the opening of the light rail from uptown to campus,” Doster said. “We expect that the light rail will run to our Center City campus during the convention. Riding the light rail, including those who will be staying in the University City area or beyond, will provide an ease of moving around the city.”  

Public demonstrations on college campuses are a shared experience of most students. There is no doubt that, with the RNC coming to Charlotte, there will be some form of demonstration performed by members of those in support or in opposition with the RNC. This may come in conflict with campus activities because the start date for the RNC coincides with the first day of class.

“Demonstrations are very common on our campus,” Doster said. “With the convention due to come in two years, how will campus administration plan to deal with some demonstrations that may conflict with classes or other campus activities?”

Campus has witnessed demonstrations based on religion, politics and other messages. The University’s primary focus is to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff.

“The University will address protests and demonstrations according to our policies and ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff and property,” Doster said.

The RNC will provide opportunities for students and other Charlotteans to learn and experience the wave of political discourse but will also provide a challenge to those moving into dorms and apartments.

National Hunger Awareness Week

The second week of November marks Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. From Nov. 11 to Nov. 18, UNC Charlotte places an emphasis on promoting food security for students. The week begins with the opportunity for students to get involved by signing a pledge to provide awareness for the hungry and homeless. The Second Harvest Food Bank is providing a space for students to volunteer on Nov. 13 and 15 to collect donations to distribute to those in need in the community. A screening of the documentary, “A Place at the Table,” which broadens the understanding of hunger and homelessness within the Charlotte community, will be held on Nov. 14, and an overnight simulation called a “sleepout” will be held the next day to show what it is like to sleep on the streets. Finally, to wrap up the week’s events, The Jamil Niner Student Pantry will give tours of their facilities to educate the community about their mission and how to volunteer. The week is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness.

These organizations believe that students should worry about their grades, not how they will get their next meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Sadly, many college students suffer from food insecurity. According to a recent study conducted by Temple University and The Hope Center, of the 43,000 college students surveyed, 36% say they are food insecure. Another 36% say they are housing insecure, while 9% report being homeless. The Hope Center is a research team focused on research to drive and evaluate evidence-based policymaking. Studies from the previous year showed similar conclusions.

UNC Charlotte Joins Swipe Out Hunger

In order to address food insecurity, UNC Charlotte has joined the fight to “Swipe Out Hunger.” This initiative was developed and founded by UCLA student Rachel Sumekh to distribute extra meal swipes to students in need. The program has enlisted colleges and universities across 23 states.

UNC Charlotte began developing a swipe donation program in July 2018, led by the co-founder of the Jamil Niner Student Pantry, Sean Langley, and the UNC Charlotte Sustainability Coordinator, Tyler Sytsma, in association with Chartwells Dining Service and Student Assistance and Support Services. The team faced many challenges in implementing these services campus-wide.

In an interview with Inside UNC Charlotte, Langley said, “The most challenging part was figuring out logistics. How do we determine eligibility? How will we collect donated meal swipes? How many swipes will each student receive? How do we convince University stakeholders that this is a worthwhile program since we are the first school in the UNC system to implement Swipe Out Hunger?”

Student involvement is the major key in developing this initiative into a fully functioning program. The University has set up stations for swipe donations at Crown Commons and Sovi dining halls. UNC Charlotte is the only university in North Carolina involved in the program, however, it serves as an example for all college and universities to get involved and fight student hunger.

Jamil Student Food Pantry

A supportive community provides a vital base for any new initiative. The Jamil Niner Student Pantry, located on John Kirk Drive, is an establishment that provides nutritious meals to UNC Charlotte undergraduate and graduate students that struggle with food insecurity. Efforts began in 2012 when the UNC Charlotte team at the NC Campuses Against Hunger Conference recommended opening campus food pantries across the state. UNC Charlotte faculty partnered with Food Lion to start the pantry in August 2014. The project was opened to the public in October of 2014. Until recently, the pantry used locally grown produce from the backyard of their facilities to directly service students of UNC Charlotte. Now they have moved into a 2,600 square foot home where they served 260 students in the past month.

The organization is eager to get people involved for Hunger Awareness week. Sean Langley, co-founder says, “…we pass out flyers that educate students. The flyer has a link to Swipe Out Hunger here at UNC Charlotte (swipehunger.org/uncc). Generally once they hear the pitch, they are eager to participate.”

Langley emphasized how an involved community promotes a healthier community. He says programs like the Pantry and Swipe Out Hunger “bring students together because it’s 49ers helping 49ers. Nothing shows more school spirit than assisting a peer in need.”

Niners go green for Sustainability Week 2018

Along with the ushering in of the new fall season, UNC Charlotte is beginning its annual Sustainability Week. The week’s events include environmental service opportunities for students, faculty and staff to protect the campus of UNC Charlotte and the greater area.

This week encourages all members of the UNC Charlotte community to take initiative in cleaning up campus. Oct. 16 is dedicated to “Campus Cleanup;” however, the University encourages students to practice this each day. Trash stations located at the McMillan Greenhouse, Laurel Hall and Motorsports Lab allowed Niners to keep campus clean. 

Sustainability Week also involves educating volunteers on easily preventable environmental problems. Volunteers learned how to correctly band trees in order to deter enemy cankerworms by attaching barriers to at least 80 oak trees on campus. Tree banding is the process that prohibits female cankerworms from laying eggs in trees which can cause the tree to die. 

The Light-Rail system was utilized as an example for the community to showcase the benefits of public transportation. The Transportation Fair is aimed for public transportation organizations, such as the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and Charlotte Wheels Bikeshare, to provide answers to common questions that people may have about the local transit system. Utilizing public transportation is critical for developing a sustainable culture.

One of the main goals for sustainability week is to encourage students to take better care of their campus. The “Student Gathering” event on Oct. 18 provided a forum for student organizations to collaborate with one another to advance campus sustainability. Along with free food, pumpkin carving and other activities, this event guided students towards a common goal to be advocates for the future of UNCC.

On Oct.19, BES Recycling Facilities housed the annual Electronic Waste (E-waste) Collection. UNCC Facilities Management provided a space for students to dispose of common electronic items that many don’t think to recycle, including laptops, cell phones, chargers, speakers, kitchen appliances, vacuums and keyboards. Local research firm Informative Technologies Inc. partnered with the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling to collect E-waste. This is event was not only to recycle old tech, but a research opportunity to develop understanding of how to make computers work better and longer.

Sustainability Week strives to give this campus a sustainable, environmentally-friendly legacy and encourages students to join in on the movement.

UNC Charlotte’s 43rd International Festival


Photos by Chris Crews.

Established in 1975, the International Festival has always been a widely anticipated event for families, community members and students. UNC Charlotte prides itself in its diverse body of students and staff and utilizes this festival to showcase that. Each booth serves as a window into the cultures that make us unique. 

The event was held in and around the Student Activity Center on September 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, giving visitors plenty of time to experience the games, art and crafts, dances, music and food. Representatives from 39 different countries provided information about their countries and served food for a more hands-on learning experience. 

It is apparent as soon as one enters the festival that it is a means of camaraderie. This event is made to broaden the horizons of all visitors and encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones.

Ethan Mendel, a representative of the Israeli booth, said, “I think it provides a lot of diversity to show how diverse the campus is. You can get lost in your own niche or circle, and it shows how diverse the country is too.”

A highlight of the event within the festival is the Parade of Nations, a way for representatives to proudly represent their country for all to see. Dozens of representatives line-up for a procession inside of Dalton Arena wearing clothing and jewelry from their respective countries.

“What an amazing sight to see so many people proud to show off their country. There are so many people supporting and learning from each other,” said freshman Casey Denbow.  

The passion of the representatives is obvious during the event. “I spent the entire summer in Israel, living there and working there. It means a lot to share that with people, being able to show my diversity with others.” emphasized Mendel. “I feel like [the culture] is a huge part of my being; I celebrate Shabbat every Friday and it feels like it is a part of who I am.” 

The various cultures are very much embedded in each representative’s identity. Even the spectators dressed to express their pride in their home countries.

Outside the Student Activity Center, dozens of booths connect visitors with products that share the artistic values that each nation holds. Representatives from countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya offered handmade jewelry for purchase. Many booths, like the Liberian and Senegalese tables, also offered clothing that could be purchased. These products are brought into the homes and cultures of visitors to tell a story of the original country.

Each booth showed glimpses into the culture that the reflected each nation. The use of food was, and will always be, a large aspect of conveying one’s culture. French crêpes, Vietnamese egg rolls, Korean barbecue and Belgian waffles were just a few of the delicacies that sparked conversation between cultural representatives and visitors.

The upper lawn included games for all to play. Soccer received a large crowd of people, serving as an example of how people from different cultures can come together through a common interest. Inside the Student Activity Center, The Festival of Music and Dance held ensembles from countries such as South Africa, China, India and many more. A crowd favorite seemed to go to an Irish folk band called The Celtic Folk Band. 

This year’s festival strengthened the University’s connection with the Charlotte community. It serves as a safe and inclusive environment that can resonate with everyone. As stated in the UNC Charlotte diversity statement: “UNC Charlotte is committed to cultivating diversity and inclusion throughout the campus. Our campus community is comprised of people who represent the wide breadth of gender identities, sexualities, races and ethnicities, faith traditions, nationalities, and other social groups and backgrounds.  All of these identities and experiences enrich the University as a whole. UNC Charlotte strives to celebrate and leverage the benefits of this diversity, and to sustain an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, and staff.”

The International Festival adds meaning to these words by bringing together a diverse group of Charlotteans.

Clean Air Carolina and UNC Charlotte take on fuel emissions

Local and Federal Regulation

As construction continues to grow around campus, including the University Recreation Center due to open next fall, UNC Charlotte has updated the regulations on construction vehicle emissions. This will set a new precedent for how the administration handles improving air and environmental quality. UNC Charlotte partnered with the Clean Carolina Initiative to reduce diesel fuel emissions on campus. Clean Carolina is a group of Mecklenburg County citizens working with the community to improve and maintain North Carolina’s air quality. This team of volunteers joined forces with UNC Charlotte to improve campus air quality by creating new regulations designed to change how UNC Charlotte handles construction pollution. The University has reformed its Design and Construction manual to coincide with federal guidelines and mandates in order to ensure that the “design, construction and renovation” of University-owned facilities remain at the correct and safe standards.

Recent regulation reform implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that construction companies meet the “Tier 4 Standards” to decrease fuel emissions on construction sites. These regulations address the amount of particulate matter that is produced by non-road diesel engines based on the amount of horsepower produced by the engine of the vehicle. According to the EPA, “…by 2030, we estimate that this program will reduce over 129,000 tons PM2.5 (Particulate Matter) and 738,000 tons of NOX (Nitrogen Oxide) annually.” 

 

What is particulate matter?

With new campus guidelines for construction companies, the amount of particulate matter in the air is expected to decrease. But what exactly does this mean? EPA defines particulate matter (PM) as: “The mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye.” PM is measured by a scale of PM2.5 and PM10. PM2.5 are hair cell sized particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller, which is 30 times smaller than the average human hair. PM10 are inhalable particles that are 10 micrometers or smaller.

The EPA has connected particulate matter with several health risks, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms and coughing or difficulty breathing. Constructions sites are one of the main causes of particulate matter dispersal, which can cause health issues for workers, students, faculty and staff if precautions are not taken. Particulate matter has also been linked to many environmental issues. Fine particles are the leading cause of visibility reduction in parts of the United States, including several national parks. In addition, lakes, rivers, streams and other coastal basins are vulnerable to an unbalanced amount of nutrients, which can increase the salinity and endanger the local wildlife. The work of UNC Charlotte and other environmental groups aims to reduce this pollution and improve and maintain the quality of life on our campus.