Megan Bird

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Megan is the News Editor for the Niner Times. She is a sophomore Political Science and Spanish double major. Megan is from Charlottesville, Virginia. She can be reached at news@ninertimes.com

Campus flyer implicates associate vice chancellor of human rights violations during his military service at Guantanamo Bay

An anonymous flyer has recently accused UNC Charlotte’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Safety and Security John Bogdan of overseeing multiple human rights violations during his time as a commander at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, the retired Army Colonel has refuted these allegations, calling them “inaccurate” and “a distraction” from his duties at the University.

The flyer states, “In Guantanamo Bay, John Bogdan tortured people – most of whom were cleared for release.” It accuses Bogdan of using religious humiliation as a strategy to pacify detainees, allowing genital searches and commanding detention centers in Iraq and Somalia. It asks, “How could Bogdan possibly be qualified to protect UNCC students, faculty, and staff when all he knows how to do is brutalize his subordinates?”

Bogdan told the Niner Times in an interview on Aug. 30 that the flyer is “generally full of inaccuracies, largely other people’s opinions,” and “a distraction from my primary focus, which is the safety and security of the University.”

Bogdan was appointed as associate vice chancellor for safety and security in late December and began his duties in his first civilian job on Jan. 2. Inside UNC Charlotte wrote in an announcement of his hiring that Bogdan is responsible for managing “the plans and programs that protect lives and property, prevent accidents and incidents and preserve the learning environment and business operations of the University. This includes police and public safety, environmental health and safety, emergency management, and risk management and insurance.”

Director of the Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies Dr. John Cox told the Niner Times that he was “disturbed” to hear about Bogdan’s background. He said he reached out to Chief of Staff of the Chancellor’s Office Kim Bradley asking why UNC Charlotte felt it needed someone with experience such as Bogdan’s. Bradley responded to Cox, “Throughout his military career, John demonstrated his leadership skills in safety readiness and response, skills applicable to his responsibilities on campus and that were instrumental in our response and ongoing recovery to April 30. We believe he is committed to our mission and he is a valuable addition to our campus community.”

A senior who is active in the Amnesty International chapter at UNC Charlotte told the Niner Times, “UNC Charlotte’s hiring of John Bogdan as associate vice chancellor for safety and security is troubling. His expertise is not suitable for an institution that strives to be inclusive to all races, gender and creeds.”

The flyer, whose author remains anonymous, states that Bogdan ran detention centers in Iraq and Somalia. Bogdan replied that he ran “nothing in Somalia.” However, in December 2013, Director of Amnesty’s Security with Human Rights Daphne Eviatar wrote in the Huffington Post that Bogdan disclosed during a military commission hearing that he ran detention operations in both Iraq and Somalia. According to Eviatar, little is known about U.S. detention in Somalia. 

The retired Army Colonel did serve as commander of the 95th Military Police Battalion in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009, where he ran a detention center with “healthy amounts of enemy prisoners of war,” as he told the Niner Times. He also partnered with Iraqi police officials across 50 police stations to develop their security forces. During his tour in Iraq, Bogdan told the Stars and Stripes publication that “‘concerned local citizens’ — armed civilian groups — have played a major part in helping to reduce violence.” This occurred during the surge when the U.S. sent additional troops to Iraq and often cooperated with the local groups.

Bogdan told the Niner Times that he was assigned to his position at Guantanamo in 2012.

From 2012 to 2014, Bogdan served as the warden of the Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military prison in Cuba. During his time there, he faced criticism from detainees’ attorneys for his harsh rules, like imposing regulations on when attorneys could visit their clients.

In February 2013, the Miami Herald reported that it was revealed during a Guantanamo war court trial that there was a hidden microphone inside of a smoke detector in Echo II, a room where high-profile detainees meet with their attorneys. Bogdan testified that he had no prior knowledge of the bugs and that they had been installed long before his arrival. 

In March 2013, the New York Times confirmed with the Defense Department that numerous detainees were participating in a hunger strike. The detainees’ attorneys said the protest was a response to a search in February in which guards allegedly took personal valuables and mishandled the inmates’ Qurans. In a media briefing, Bogdan said that Quran searches had been standard practice for a while. According to a study by UC Davis, 106 of the 166 inmates participated in the hunger strike, 46 of whom were subjected to force-feeding. Shaker Aamer, who was held without trial for 13 years despite being cleared for release twice by the British government, said that the authorities of the prison used techniques such as sharply decreasing the temperature and introducing metal-tipped feeding tubes to ensure consumption by inmates.

When asked why he allowed these tactics, Bogdan told the Niner Times the focus was the “safe, humane treatment of the detainees” and the decision to force-feed was a “medical protocol” that “wasn’t under his purview.” No inmate’s weight had fallen below 100 pounds during the strike, a Navy officer in charge of prison camp health facilities told the Miami Herald under the condition of anonymity. 

But according to Bogdan’s declaration from a lawsuit challenging the legality of the force-feeding, he did advise on the decision to allow “compliant” detainees to sit in a reclining chair and “watch television or play video games while being enterally fed.” The strikers were strapped to a chair with their feet shackled, reported VICE News. 

On Apr. 13, 2013, dozens of specially-trained U.S. soldiers raided the facility’s communal compound and put 65 defiant detainees in single-cell lockdown at the command of Bogdan, who monitored the event by video screen and radio. The guards fired rubber pellets and five detainees were injured. Bogdan told reporters with the Huffington Post, “We hit the point where I thought we were accepting too much risk, and I felt it was time to take action.”

According to the Huffington Post, the night after the raid, a detainee attempted suicide by strangulation. Another detainee had attempted the same the night before.  

Attorney David Remes wrote in the Guardian that “[Bogdan] appears to view the hunger strike as an insurrection, not a protest, and is using every trick in the book, however brutal and cruel, to put it down. Bogdan has eliminated communal living, moving almost all detainees into isolation cells. His guards have confiscated family letters and pictures and legal materials, and even toothbrushes, toothpaste and towels. The guards prevent the men from sleeping by keeping bright lights shining all night and removing the men’s eye-shades. My clients report to me that guards also deliberately make enough noise to keep the detainees awake all night and they are chilling the detainees by keeping their cells freezing cold.”

In May 2013, Al Jazeera reported that detainees were forced to submit to a “pat down” of their genitals and buttocks before leaving the camp for another facility. The tactic received heavy criticism from the detainees’ attorneys who pointed out it was a form of religious humiliation for the predominantly Muslim inmates. In a June 3 declaration, Bogdan justified the searches by saying they would prevent additional suicides and cut off the alleged flow of “contraband” into and out of the cells. A lower court struck the policy down, calling it “religiously and culturally abhorrent” and claiming it was a tactic to prevent detainees from meeting with their lawyers during a hunger strike. 

When asked about the genital searches, Bogdan told the Niner Times that he “used the standard search procedures that are assigned in army policy and regulation and in the best practices with the Federal Bureau of prisons.” He said it’s a “regular army procedure” that he did not create. 

As the flyer alleges, 86 prisoners were cleared for release during Bogdan’s tenure at Gitmo. Bogdan says that release is “not a decision of innocence or guilt.”

In the announcement of Bogdan’s hiring, Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Elizabeth Hardin said, “John has a track record of leadership providing safety and security in installations and communities around the U.S. and the world. His dedication to service and his mission orientation fit well in higher education.”

Following Bogdan’s controversial administration at Guantanamo, he served as Chief of Force Protection and Homeland Defense Division and later as Chief of Policy for the U.S. Army. Associate vice chancellor is Bogdan’s first civilian job. He said it was a “natural evolution” and a continuation of his background in “training and developing people.” He added that he chose Charlotte specifically because he has family in the area.

“My time in the military was about leading and developing young Americans,” said Bogdan, “and the large percentage of the folks I worked with were roughly the same age group as students in college. I’ve been completely in awe by the initiative and the determination of young Americans, and the opportunity to do more of that work and continue in that environment I saw as a real blessing.”

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke talks gun control at a town hall near UNC Charlotte

“I remember when we learned of the shooting on April 30, and how everyone who heard that news — wherever they were, whatever political party they belonged to, however many guns they owned or did not own — thought of their kids or their time in college,” Beto O’Rourke told a crowd of students, professors and community members who gathered to hear him speak about gun control just 3 miles away from the site of the UNC Charlotte shooting.

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in college, high school or middle school who know exactly what bookshelf they’re going to pull down when a shooter enters their classroom,” said the Democratic presidential candidate.

The event was organized by Cade Lee, a UNC Charlotte senior running for the District 3 seat of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners. After the shooting, Lee reached out to five presidential candidates in hopes they would hold a town hall about gun reform. 

“Charlotte has surpassed 70 homicides this year and we don’t have any officials making this a major issue,” said Lee. 

Lee was also the founder of UNC Charlotte’s chapter of March For Our Lives, a student-led organization that advocates for stricter gun control. Beto O’Rourke is the first presidential candidate to endorse MFOL’s Peace Plan, a six-step strategy to address the United States’ gun violence epidemic. It involves reforming the standards of gun ownership, reducing gun-related homicides by 50% in 10 years, increasing accountability of the gun industry, appointing a director of gun violence prevention, generating community-based solutions, and creating a “Safety Corps,” a Peace Corps for gun violence prevention. 

UNC Charlotte sophomore Margaret Murphy, who is now the chapter director of MFOL UNC Charlotte, said O’Rourke’s endorsement of the Peace Plan was what motivated her to attend the town hall. “He probably has the best gun plan in the game right now,” she stated. 

Lee agreed, saying, “Beto has been very consistent with his views on gun reform so far this campaign.”

O’Rourke told the crowd that he remains hopeful about changing the American gun paradigm. He described a gun show in Conway, Arkansas where he spoke with several gun merchants, AR-15 owners and Trump supporters about their willingness to trade in their firearms. “What I learned in that community that may be more Republican than Democrat,” said O’Rourke, “is that those folks care just as much about this issue. If we bring them in instead of writing them off, then they might be part of the solution going forward.”

UNC Charlotte sophomore Audrey Wallace said she left band practice early to see O’Rourke speak. “We heard he was going to talk about gun control, and he wouldn’t [have held] it this close to the University if he weren’t going to,” she told the Niner Times.

Senior Patrick Green, an English major like O’Rourke, said “[O’Rourke] seems really genuine and I really appreciate that. I’m actually team Warren, but Beto coming here articulating the issues struck a chord with me and resonated [with] me. And to unveil this gun violence reform plan, which you know it’s so dear to all of us at UNC Charlotte — it’s so real for us — it was really kind of just, you know, it was emotional.”

O’Rourke also discussed white supremacy as a component of gun violence, referring to the recent surge in gun-related hate crimes. He addressed topics including the environment, student debt, immigration and ICE raids, the importance of voting, and self determination for Puerto Rico.

O’Rourke’s visit to Charlotte was part of a new campaign strategy that he developed after the shooting in El Paso, Texas. He says rather than focusing on the swing states, he will visit “those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow Americans.”

WELCOME BACK: Two UNC Charlotte seniors are running for local office

As students return to campus, sift through syllabi, buy textbooks, and shift back to academic life, UNC Charlotte seniors Gabe Cartagena and Cade Lee will be doing just that– while also campaigning for local office. 

Cartagena, a 21-year-old political science major and full-time bartender, is running for the District 4 seat of Charlotte City Council. Lee, a senior political science and international studies double major from Raleigh, is running for the District 3 seat of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners. 

The incumbent for Cartagena’s seat has stepped down, so he now faces 5 Democrats and 1 Republican for representation of the nearly half-Black district. Lee, however, will be running against an incumbent, a difficult challenger to defeat. Democrat George Dunlap has served six terms as a county commissioner and currently serves as the chairman.

Both students were inspired to run after the campus shooting on April 30, and both students have led activist groups for greater gun control. Cartagena started Real Change Now and Lee started the UNC Charlotte chapter of March for Our Lives. 

“The idea of Real Change Now was a response to a quote from Susan Harden, District 5 Mecklenburg County Commissioner, from the Rally for Remembrance. Susan said that in order for us to actually effect change, we have to get out and vote. I was mad at that statement. I sat there and I looked at five people whom I had voted for sit there and tell me that in order to solve my problems I needed to vote. My response was, well I did vote and I voted for you so what are you going to do about it?” said Cartagena about why he started the activist organization.

In a similar frustration with local elected officials, Lee said “It was mostly because after the shooting, the President of the [Charlotte] NAACP and I sent out emails to all local elected officials to discuss gun violence, but we didn’t even hear back from half… This year, [Charlotte is] expected to double the amount of homicides that occurred last year, and all but two so far have been committed with a firearm. It’s such a controversial topic that [elected officials are] afraid of how it’s going to affect their votes. We need progressive leaders that are not afraid to stand up for issues that are affecting our community.” 

Now, the two say younger voices should be in office. Cartagena’s major issues are affordable housing, transportation and jobs. Lee’s are political accountability, education, affordable housing and environmental policies. Both students are running as Democrats. 

If elected, Cartagena will join the mayor and 10 other councilors (all of whom are up for reelection this fall) to set policy, approve the financing, and enact ordinances, resolutions and orders for the city of Charlotte. 

If elected, Lee will serve on the nine-member Board of County Commissioners that acts as the governing body of Mecklenburg County. Six commissioners are elected by district and three commissioners serve at-large. The Board is in charge of the annual county budget, setting the property tax rate and establishing priorities on community needs.

Cartagena will first face a primary on Sept. 10, followed by a primary runoff on Oct. 8 and finally the general election for mayor and all 11 seats on November 5. Lee won’t appear on the ballot until the March 3 primary in 2020. If he wins that, he will move on to the general election on Nov. 3, 2020, coinciding with the U.S. presidential election. 

WELCOME BACK: Fall 2019 Construction Update

While students moved back home, went on vacation or started jobs for the summer, construction on UNC Charlotte’s campus continued on. The University Recreation Center, Moore Hall, the Hotel and Conference Center, and the new science building have all changed the landscape of campus. Here’s an update for what you can expect as you return to campus for the 2019-20 school year:

University Recreation Center

Video courtesy of UNC Charlotte

Planning for the new fitness center began in 2005 with an expected opening of mid-fall 2019, which has recently changed to spring 2020. The 160,000 square foot project will have an indoor pool, outdoor pool, four multi-purpose courts for basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc., five multi-purpose studios for group fitness classes, 80+ group fitness classes per week, cardio and strength training equipment spread over four levels, outdoor space for yoga, and outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. The project is valued at $66 million. To read more about the new recreation center, click here.

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte Facilities Management

Moore Hall 

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte Housing and Residence Life

Demolition is underway and is expected to be completed in October. Residence Hall Phase XVI, which will replace Moore and Sanford Halls, is estimated to complete in summer 2021. The new residence hall will offer more affordable rooms with 682 beds and group shower/restroom facilities. The project is valued at $58.5 million. To read more about the demolition of Moore Hall and its replacement residence hall, click here.

UNC Charlotte Marriott Hotel and Conference Center

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte, Office of the Chancellor

Excavation of the site, located between the PORTAL building and J.W. Clay Boulevard, is underway. Underground rock blasting is finished. The project is estimated to complete in early 2021 and will have 24,000 square feet of space to support symposia of up to 500 individuals with 226 hotel rooms. The project is valued at $87 million. To read more about the hotel and conference center, click here.

Science Building

Photo courtesy of Clark Nexsen

The new science building, located at Craver and Mary Alexander roads, is intended to meet the demands of UNC Charlotte’s growing STEM community, where nearly 50 percent of students with declared majors have chosen STEM-related fields. Currently, contractors are continuing masonry and roofing for the RUP/Data Center and the foundations for the building proper are being poured. The project has an estimated completion of early 2021 and will house the Biology, Chemistry and Physics Departments. It will have 130,000 square feet of classrooms and laboratories, a utility plant, data center, and café. The project is valued at $101 million. 

Photo courtesy of Clark Nexsen

UNC Charlotte student announces candidacy for county commissioner

A second UNC Charlotte student is vying for local office.

Cade Lee announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners on July 15. Lee is a Political Science and International Studies double major from Raleigh. He announced his bid for public office just two months after Gabe Cartagena, also a rising senior at UNC Charlotte, declared his candidacy for Charlotte City Council.

If electected, Lee will serve on the nine-member Board of County Commissioners that acts as the governing body of Mecklenburg County. Six commissioners are elected by district and three commissioners serve at-large. The Board is in charge of the annual county budget, setting the property tax rate and establishing priorities on community needs. According to Lee, those needs are political accountability, education, affordable housing and environmental policies.

Lee is challenging incumbent Democrat George Dunlap who has served six terms and currently serves as the chairman. Despite Dunlap’s long-time hold over the seat, Lee remains hopeful. He says citizens in District 3 are disillusioned with Dunlap and that he violated state law when he discussed changes to the budget away from public view.

They will face off in the primary on March 3 when voters will also elect their preferred presidential candidate. Lee says he’s hopeful that this will increase voter turnout, which was a mere 11,000 last year in a district of nearly 100,000.

Lee gave up a managerial position at Amelie’s Bakery in order to focus on politics, something he says he first became interested in after the 2016 presidential election. He currently serves as chairman of the College Chapters of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and founded UNC Charlotte’s chapter of March for Our Lives, an organization that advocates for greater gun regulation. Like Cartagena, he was inspired to run after the April 30 shooting on UNC Charlotte’s campus. 

It was mostly because after the shooting, the President of the [Charlotte] NAACP and I sent out emails to all local elected officials to discuss gun violence, but we didn’t even hear back from half…this year, [Charlotte is] expected to double the amount of homicides that occurred last year, and all but two so far have been committed with a firearm. It’s such a controversial topic that [elected officials are] afraid of how it’s going to affect their votes. We need progressive leaders that are not afraid to stand up for issues that are affecting our community.” said Lee.

Another one of those issues that politicians won’t touch, according to Lee, is modern-day school segregation. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district is the most segregated in North Carolina and Lee wants to tackle it with a new busing system. He says the system must be fair and observe reasonable transportation time.

“Students shouldn’t be around people who only look like them, especially when we have such a culture of white privilege.” explained Lee. 

The rising senior also wants to expand Charlotte’s greenways. He points out that despite the 2008 greenway plan calling for 129 miles by 2018, Mecklenburg County currently has 47 miles of existing greenway.

If elected in the March 3 primary, Lee will move on to the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.

Cartagena and Lee both believe that judging political experience based on age is equivalent to judging someone’s experience based on the color of their skin. If elected, they would be the youngest members serving for their respective organizations.

After nearly 50 years, Moore Hall comes down

After nearly 50 years of towering over South Village, demolition on Moore Hall has officially begun.

Moore and Sanford will be replaced with a combined residence hall known as Phase XVI. The new building will offer a low-cost alternative to students but a modern addition to campus. The 58.5 million dollar project will be approximately 157,000 square feet with 682 beds and group shower/restroom facilities, according to Associate Director of Capital Projects Jeanine Bachtel. It will be designed by the same company that created Levine Hall, KWK Architects. 

“The new residence hall will be traditional rooms for two students. These will be priced at the lower end of the price range for on-campus housing to help students who are on a tight budget. However, the new hall will be first class in every way with plenty of daylight, study areas, convenient laundry, lounges and meeting rooms. The same level of amenities could not be achieved in a renovated high rise,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Philip Jones told the Niner Times in Feb. 2018. 

Demolition began on July 2 and will take 8-10 weeks. Sanford Hall will remain open until Phase XVI is completed and open for residents. Construction of the new residence hall is scheduled from Oct. 2019 until June 2021 and will open in the fall of 2021.

In the meantime, Bachtel says, “The construction site will be fenced off from the surrounding Sanford and Levine Residence Halls which will be occupied during construction.” 

In December 2019, concern rose after Housing and Residence Life issued a statement warning students to find back up housing plans in case on-campus space filled up. In Jan. 2019, the Niner Times confirmed that housing had reached 99 percent capacity.

John Storch, Director for Facilities and Planning of Housing and Residence Life, assured students that everyone who applied for on-campus housing prior to June 1 will be assigned a room for the 2019 fall semester.

The loss of Moore Hall has been planned for in our occupancy projections during the planning of the Housing Master Plan build-out,” explained Storch. “Housing has had occupancy changes up and down throughout the entire implementation of the Housing Master Plan as buildings were demolished or renovated.  The students who lived in Moore Hall last year were transitioned into other housing spaces for the spring and were given priority to return for this academic year before we begin placing new admitted/transfer students for this fall. Students who wanted to continue to live with us have already selected the room they wanted to live in that was available in our inventory.” 

Student, bartender and city council candidate Gabe Cartagena

It is not abnormal for a student at UNC Charlotte to work full-time while pursuing their Bachelor’s degree. As a bartender who works night shifts, senior Gabe Cartagena is familiar with that struggle. What’s far less common — and in fact, unprecedented — is launching your own campaign for city council at the same time.

On May 24 Cartagena filed papers to officially run for the District 4 seat of Charlotte City Council, previously held by Democrat Greg Phipps. Since then, Cartagena has been outspoken about abortion, race relations, gun control, and immigration, largely taking to Twitter as his political platform. He has also called for an early voting site on the UNC Charlotte campus and holster monitors for CMPD officers.

News Editor Megan Bird sat down with Cartagena to discuss his background, life as a student, response to April 30 and visions for the future. If elected, Cartagena would be the youngest person and only Latino on the Council.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Bird: Let’s start out with an introduction. Can you describe yourself and tell us a little about your interests besides politics?

Cartagena: I am 21 and a political science major. I work as a bartender full time as well as going to school full time. I don’t have a lot in the way of free time because I’m working nights and have class during the day. I guess my form of entertainment for myself is consuming food. The ‘what you do for fun’ question always gets me a little off guard because most of my life is spent doing some sort of community organizing; that’s what I do. I like to exist in my community. I like to be an active member of my community. So I guess what I find the most fulfilling in my life and therefore what I find fun is actively organizing and playing a part in the city.

Bird: Now that you’ve brought us to that topic, what has your involvement been in organizing within Charlotte?

Cartagena: So I started organizing here actually before I moved here. When I was a senior in high school I got involved with a presidential campaign that at the time was polling around four percent. I did what I could to volunteer, tabling at Food Truck Friday when I wasn’t even old enough to vote. But that presidential candidate ended up doing pretty well;  his name was Bernie Sanders. I met with the state director and she gave me a chance to meet with and speak for Senator Sanders, and that’s where people in Charlotte came to actually know me. Later on, I did organizing work with the party. I was elected as the 3rd Vice Chair for the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party right after being elected to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I’ve been in and out with other liberal and progressive groups in the city but haven’t been able to do very serious organizing work over the past year because I actually had to spend a lot of time working on my GPA. I had briefly considered running for City Council about a year ago actually before I really realized what my junior year was going to take out of me. But you know, then April 30 happened.

Bird: Just to backtrack a little bit, you mentioned that you moved to Charlotte. So where did you grow up and how long have you been living in Charlotte?

Cartagena: Whenever someone asks me where I grew up I say North Carolina because I have moved around North Carolina the vast majority of my life. I lived in Florida for some time and lived in Washington State, but within NC I lived in Stanly County, Burke County, Catawba County, Mecklenburg County and Gaston County. I went to high school in Gastonia, middle school in Stanly County and elementary school in Catawba County.

Bird: That’s quite a list.

Cartagena: Yeah I’m from North Carolina but I do consider myself to be a Charlottean. I’ve been here for four years now and I understand that’s not a very long time, but it’s four of my most important developmental years I’d like to say. And so who I am as a result is because of Charlotte.

Bird: So did you move here for school?

Cartagena: Yeah, I really chose UNC Charlotte because I wanted to live in Charlotte.

Bird: And why did you decide to run for City Council?

Cartagena: I care a lot about things like zoning, housing and attracting jobs to Charlotte and early childhood education. But on a more philosophical level,  I’m really running because I’m disappointed in the condition of our government. The obsession over national level media and then the subsequent neglect of our local politics has led to people running for office and winning who either don’t actually represent the community well, aren’t prepared for office or aren’t in it for the right reasons. I’ll readily admit that I understand there’s a level of ego that goes into all politics, but especially in the city of Charlotte, it seems that all too often it’s all about ego. I’m not okay with that. I think that mindset has led to complacency and inaction and this collective mentality from legislators at all levels that you can do or not do whatever you would like because so long as you are registered for the correct party, there will be no repercussions for it. And now there’s an empty seat because the incumbent has retired, so really we have to ask ourselves the question “if not me, who?” and “if not now, when?” as much of a cliché as that is. I also want to represent the 29,000 students in the University area because the city looks at us as temporary residents and ignores us. No one has stepped up to actually be our voice.

Bird: So just to summarize, would you say your main reasons for running are the state of politics today, complacency and inaction?

Cartagena: Those would definitely be my main reasons. I could sit down and go on and on and on for hours about all of the reasons, but those are definitely my main ones.

Bird: You briefly mentioned before the events of April 30. Can you tell us about the organization that you formed in response? Was it your idea?

Cartagena: It was my idea. The idea of Real Change Now was a response to a quote from Susan Harden, District 5 Mecklenburg County Commissioner, from the Rally for Remembrance. Susan said that in order for us to actually effect change, we have to get out and vote. I was mad at that statement. I sat there and I looked at five people whom I had voted for sit there and tell me that in order to solve my problems I needed to vote. My response was, well I did vote and I voted for you so what are you going to do about it? So I tweeted at her and she responded asking for a list of wants, needs and demands which I didn’t think she actually expected to be done. So I tweeted back and I said, yeah, okay, I’m going to make you a list of wants, needs and demands and I’m going to give it to you at the next Commissioners meeting. She retweeted that and essentially said okay. And I was like well shit, I have to do this. And so I tweeted out a call for action and asked for people to come out and share their ideas for how we can actually stop this. I didn’t know what to expect, but on about 12 hours notice at 9 AM on the day after the Rally for Remembrance, there were about 12 people who showed up to the room and we all worked anywhere between 9 and 13 hours. Most of these people were people I’d never met before.

Bird: How many students do you have now?

Cartagena: I believe 60, but they’re not all students.

Bird: So it’s open to the community?

Cartagena: Yeah. So I actually have a few faculty and staff members from UNC Charlotte as well as a teacher from CMS.

Bird: What is the organization’s goal?

Cartagena: We have a broadly stated goal to combat gun violence in our community. So we look at violence as, generally speaking, a public policy issue. We are very concerned about the social situations that surround gun violence. So we want to actually come up with nuanced and tangible policy changes at every level of government to actually enact what we are dubbing “real change.” We get a lot of rhetoric from politicians who say either “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” or “it’s people that are using the guns to kill people.” It’s a circular debate about whether or not guns are a problem. And so we want to take a step back and think, yeah, okay. People kill people; that’s true. But people kill people with guns. So what can we do to stop people from killing people with guns? What can we realistically do at every level of government to stop this? The surrounding issues are things like economic anxiety, early childhood education and the ability for people to actually express their emotions and not use violence as a form of expression. So I think what the city can do, what the School Board can do, what the County Commission can do is circumvent the state because the state is not acting and the state probably won’t act. We want to work with smaller levels of government to enact real policies because we’re really tired of empty rhetoric.

Bird: So whether gun control is one of your main issues or not, what would you say are your three main issues concerning Charlotte?

Cartagena: This is gonna be one of the hardest questions for me to answer consistently because every day I want to talk about ten different things. What I’m really going to talk about in this campaign is affordable housing and everything that surrounds that: zoning, development, land use and cost of living. I think that our ability to exist in the city is inseparable from the affordability of our homes. When housing prices go up and wages don’t go up with that, we start to see more and more social anxiety and worse living conditions.

I also want to talk about transportation and connectivity. I think that part of having a healthy community and city is being able to commute reasonably quickly and affordably. So my most comprehensive plans will probably be about transportation. I want to drastically reduce the prices of weekly, monthly and annual passes for the light rail to as low of a cost as the city can afford. I have no issue with a premium for tourists or the rate for single day passes. But I think it is a little ridiculous that our weekly, monthly and annual passes don’t actually save you a lot of money. There’s no reason why a commuter in Charlotte should be paying more than $50 for transportation for a year because that’s essentially the same rate as before.  

So the third issue is probably going to be job acquisition, so recruiting employers to Charlotte who are ready and willing to employ the workforce that exists here. That also means expanding the workforce that exists here by improving our education programs and making sure that if you were born here, you will receive an education that is competitive. Because if you live in Charlotte, if you’re born in Charlotte or if you’re educated in Charlotte and you would like to stay in Charlotte to work, then you should be able to work at the finance firms that exist here. If Amazon came, we should have a ready and available workforce for Amazon. We need to prepare them with the foundation that they need to actually step out into the competitive Charlotte economy. We have the fastest growing economies in the United States and we need to be ready for that.

Bird: I just have two more questions here before we finish up. You talk a lot about the issue of equity on your Twitter, and I saw one tweet in particular where you said, “I’m a gay brown man who grew up in the South.” How has your identity affected your decision to run and your policy choices now?

Cartagena: I was born in a multilingual household. My family has both been very, very poor and pretty well off. I don’t think at any point we’ve ever been particularly wealthy. Growing up, I’ve faced different types of adversity depending on where I was living. In Catawba County, I faced much more discrimination for being Latino then I ever did for being queer. When I moved to Stanly County, people would literally stop me and pray for me because I was gay. I experienced a lot of the general bullying both from my peers and from the adults around me. People literally looked at me and called me an abomination. So with how I’ve grown up, I think we should take seriously the claim that all of us are born equal, and we should take seriously the claim that all of us deserve the best that this society can give us. So whenever I talk about equity and whenever I talk about my vision for this city or the state or the country, I’m talking about a place where you can go to school and exist. You shouldn’t be singled out for something that you cannot control. Oftentimes what that translates into is that you’re paid less because you’re black; you’re paid less because you’re a woman. You’re looked at as lesser because how we’ve been trained our whole lives is that if you are not the caricature of a great white well-to-do guy, then somehow you don’t deserve the same amount. And that is wrong for me and that influences every decision that I make and intend to make.

Bird: Thank you for speaking about your experience with discrimination; I know that can be hard. So lastly, what would you say to someone who might tell you you are too young or inexperienced for the position?

Cartagena: I mean if people think I’m too young or inexperienced they’re probably not going to vote for me anyway. If my age is what makes me too inexperienced then that same argument can be applied to one of my opponents for being a woman, or one of my other opponents for being black. It’s the same argument and if someone in Charlotte actually tries that argument with me, I just don’t think it will go over well.

 

Cartagena will first face a primary on September 10, followed by a primary runoff on October 8 and finally the general election for mayor and all 11 seats on November 5.

 

 

 

 

 

The three-letter controversy: Drop the ‘UNC’

Recent debate at UNC Charlotte has largely centered on the issue of names. From the controversial “Jerry Richardson” stadium to the University’s very own name, students are expressing their discontent.

The longtime movement to drop the “UNC” is back with force after NBA player Joe Harris mistakenly pledged his trophy to the “University of Charlotte” for letting him practice in their gym. This time, students are signing a petition to show Chancellor Dubois and the Board of Trustees that they’re serious.

The petition, created anonymously on Change.org, implores the Board of Trustees to “Remove the ‘UNC’ from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.” It currently has 2,484 signatures with a goal of 2,500.

The petition includes a long explanation for the #droptheUNC movement.

The author claims that “UNC” stunts the University’s success. Although UNC Charlotte is the fastest growing institution in the UNC system, it is often mistaken for a satellite campus of UNC Chapel Hill or a community college because of the ending “CC.” The creator of the petition acknowledges that “UNC” helped to establish UNC Charlotte during its early years; however, now “it’s unnecessary and confusing.”

For years, students and alumni have expressed their support for the name change through social media. Today, multiple Twitter accounts have formed in support of the name change, including University of Charlotte, Name Confusion Log and 49 Shades of Drop the UNC. The popular account Agent49, with over 2,000 followers, is also an advocate for the movement.

On Reddit, students and alumni are more divided. Many complain about the confusion with UNC Chapel Hill, while others point out that the association bolsters UNC Charlotte’s prestige.

UNC Charlotte adopted the three letters when it was absorbed into the UNC system in 1965. Previously known as Charlotte College, the General Assembly approved the name change and it remains fixed in Chapter 116 of the North Carolina General Statutes. According to the Chancellor’s office, “Changing the name of UNC Charlotte would require the support of the University’s Board of Trustees and the UNC System Board of Governors before making a request of the General Assembly.”

7 schools in the UNC system carry the “UNC”; 10 do not.

The Chancellor has not commented on this recent push to change the name, but it appears he hasn’t changed his stance since 2018 when he told the Student Senate, “I’ve been passively against it since 2005 when I became chancellor.”

Buffie Stephens, Director of Issues Management and Media Relations, confirmed that “The University is not engaged in any initiative to change the name of UNC Charlotte.”

The student government association will conduct a poll on March 26 and 27 to gauge student opinion on the matter. Until then, the “UNC” remains.

Lynching display outside of Rowe Recital Hall

On Dec. 11, someone used a noose to hang what appears to be a sculpture of a white body dangling from a tree. The display is clearly intended to depict a lynching. According to an email that UNC Charlotte sent to all students and staff, the Department of Police and Public Safety conducted an investigation and determined that the display was a end-of-semester art project submitted by a student of color. It is still unclear whether the student was permitted to publicly display the art project and why the student chose to do so. The hanging object has since been removed.

 

Lynching depiction outside of Rowe

 

Although conceivably unrelated, the display came a day after the Student Government Association released a statement regarding the “Silent Sam” statue. The SGA sided with the UNC Chapel Hill Student Government in condemning the Board of Trustees’ decision to reinstall the confederate statue after it was toppled by students last year. UNC Charlotte Student Body President Niayai Lavien wrote, “Silent Sam was not simply a statue, but a source of harm and discomfort for students of color through its history on their campus.”

 

Lynching depiction outside of Rowe

 

UNC Charlotte stated, “The representation of a figure being lynched is hurtful, threatening and offensive.”

This article will be updated as more details are revealed about the situation.

A Sponge’s Impact: Reflecting on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’

Millennial humor is a strange thing; just take a look at the most recent memes and you will quickly see how absurd, chaotic and seemingly random our sense of humor is. Why is that? The Nickelodeon animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” has to play some role in the formation of who we are as a generation. A cartoon based around a talking sea sponge who lives in a pineapple and works as a fry cook is a wild concept for a television series, but the jokes that come from the individual episodes shine a light on where our humor comes from. Even as adults, the millennial generation just can’t seem to move past this iconic series as reaction images and memes from the show seem to pop up constantly on our social media timelines. There are also plenty of quotes that find themselves in conversation and in social media bios.

Following the death of “SpongeBob” creator Stephen Hillenburg on Nov. 26, the Internet created countless tributes and many shared how they were personally impacted by the series and its band of lovable characters. To pay tribute to Hillenburg and the wonderful world he created and its timeless legacy, four Niner Times editors have selected their favorite episodes to share just what this sea sponge means to them.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Pizza Delivery”

Adulthood is finally realizing that not only is Squidward justified in his anger, but that you may also be Squidward yourself. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than going home after a long day of school and work, but it isn’t always that simple. In this classic episode, SpongeBob and Squidward are tasked with delivering a pizza, which Mr. Krabs has suddenly decided to start selling as a means to make more money. Being that this is “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Squidward is relentlessly tortured throughout the episode during what should have been a simple delivery by the two losing their boat and ending up in an undersea tornado. Between the “Krusty Krab Pizza” song that SpongeBob sings and Squidward’s desperation to eat said pizza after becoming lost, there are so many hilarious moments and jokes packed into this episode. The standout line and my personal favorite quote comes as they finally reach the customer’s house and realize they have forgotten one important part of his order: “How am I supposed to eat this pizza without my drink?!” This just adds to the absurdity of the episode and the series as a whole. And who could forget the “big, beautiful, old rock” that the “pioneers used to ride for miles?”

Jeffrey Kopp, Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Rock Bottom”

The greatest SpongeBob episodes are nonsensical, clever, and, yes, social commentaries. The astutely named “Rock Bottom” from the first season meets all of these requirements in the weirdest way. It starts when Patrick and SpongeBob take the wrong bus on the way home and end up in Rock Bottom, the abyssal zone of the ocean. They are coming from Glove World…yep, a glove-themed amusement park. Patrick immediately catches the next bus home, leaving SpongeBob to fend for himself in the dark, strange area. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get on the bus, SpongeBob goes to the bus station where he waits for hours, only to be told the next bus won’t arrive until the morning. He goes back outside and meets a frightening anglerfish who appears to only communicate through spitting noises. SpongeBob tries to speak with him, but the anglerfish can’t understand his “accent” — speaking without spitting. SpongeBob grows increasingly frustrated and wary of the fish, but in the end, he is the one to retrieve SpongeBob’s balloon from Glove World, which ultimately helps him float home.

The best part of this episode is the concept of Glove World, made even funnier because it takes no real role in the plot. Patrick and Spongebob could have been coming from anywhere — the store, a friend’s house, etcetera. Why include this random aspect of the episode? Perhaps the obsession with anything glove-shaped is a commentary on consumerism, just as the bus station could be a criticism of bureaucracy or the interaction with the spitting anglerfish an analogy to xenophobia. Or perhaps it is just SpongeBob, and we need not take the talking sea sponge and starfish that wear clothes and go to a beach in the ocean at anything other than face value.

-Megan Bird, News Editor

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Club SpongeBob”

Almost every episode from the first three seasons of SpongeBob are iconic, classic pieces of cinematic history. And while I believe they, as a whole, form one of the many foundational chains in the block of what established our generation’s sense of humor, a personal favorite episode of mine would have to be the “Club SpongeBob.” This episode is among one of my top ranks because it is utterly ridiculous. It also features some of the most iconic jokes of the entire series. The flawed, absurd and ludicrous logic presented in it makes absolutely no sense and it sets the stage for a downright comical experience. Why do SpongeBob and Patrick spend an entirety of three days stuck in “Club SpongeBob” without asking for help? Why do they listen to a “Magic Conch Shell” toy, and why do they literally nothing to get out of the forest, just because it told them to? How does that plan even work? How does there just so happen to be a plane overhead that releases food magically into a perfect picnic around them? Just when you think the episode has finally reached its climax with a park ranger coming in to save them and no more idiocy can be had, said ranger also ends up being a follower of the Magic Conch and has brought along his own. Squidward seems to be the only sane voice of reason in this episode, and watching him get driven to the brink of insanity by SpongeBob and Patrick’s shrewd logic actually working for their benefit is what really cranks up the humor in this episode.

I felt like I spiritually related to Squidward throughout this entire episode, from the start when he gets offended by SpongeBob and Patrick not letting him into their club to the end when he gets riled up trying to understand how everyone except for him is getting good favors from this “all-knowing shell.” The script is incredible; the jokes are incredible; everything about this episode is just incredible. Sometimes I too find myself wanting to ask the Magic Conch for advice on my life.

-Pooja Pasupula, Photo Coordinator

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Band Geeks”

Long before I even started marching band in high school, “Band Geeks” stood as my favorite episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It has humor all throughout, with standout moments like Patrick’s inquiry on whether mayonnaise was classified as an instrument, which alone may be the series’ most iconic line. I think what pushes it to the top, though, is the spotlight on Squidward, and not just that, but the fact that the main gang of characters rally behind him, resulting in the episode ending in his favor (which I think is the only time that ever happens for him in the entire series). The episode also makes use of pretty much all of the major characters as well as side ones like Plankton, Mrs. Puff, Pearl and even Larry the Lobster. Watching the group fail miserably at trying to be musicians is hilarious throughout, though when they come together at the end, it results in one of the greatest moments in television history. The performance of “Sweet Victory” (David Glen Eisley) is just so out of left field and amazing that it remains just as iconic to this day. Overall, this episode excels at incorporating the whole cast, solid band humor, the greatest halftime performance of all-time, and the sweet satisfaction of Squidward’s rare success being rubbed in Squilliam Fancyson’s face.

-Noah Howell, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

To be Lumbee and American

“A lot of people don’t realize Natives are all around you; it’s like we’re hidden in plain sight.”

Brittany Hunt, a PhD student in curriculum and instruction at UNC Charlotte, speaks frankly about what it means to be Native. She answers questions about her background with a clear, serious voice and prideful eyes.

Hunt is a member of the Lumbee Tribe, the largest tribe in North Carolina and east of the Mississippi River. Its 60,000 members are concentrated in Robeson County near the Lumber River. The Lumbee name is well known in North Carolina, but beyond state borders, the tribe is largely unknown.

Brittany Hunt

The federal government is in part culpable for this; it has denied federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe since 1888. The 1956 Lumbee Act acknowledges the nation as Native but still precludes them from receiving benefits normally enjoyed by those tribes who are federally recognized. This means that although Lumbee people are Native according to their culture, birth certificates and language, they cannot claim their ethnicity on federal forms or job applications.

Hunt says, “Recognition is not about proving to the world that we’re Native because we already know and believe that we are. But it gives certain political advantages.”

These privileges include things like preference on applications, scholarships, service through the Indian Health Service and the right to operate a casino. Despite the benefits, there is disagreement within the Lumbee community about the importance of federal recognition.

“We have done a lot of things to deserve federal recognition, but we didn’t do these things in order to get recognized…it’s superficial,” explains junior architecture major, Samuel Woods.

Woods speaks softly and intentionally. He is passionate about activism within his tribe. “It’s important to check people on their stuff,” he explains, regarding misconceptions and stereotypes of Native culture.

Samuel Woods

To date, 573 tribes are federally recognized while 200 are not. The Cherokee are the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina while the other seven only have state recognition. North Carolina recognized the Lumbee Tribe in 1885 when they were known as the Croatan. Part of why the federal government refuses to grant these benefits to the Lumbee people and so many other groups is because of ambiguity in their history.

As Hunt explains, “The government committed paper genocide against Natives and many ended up losing their heritage. The government requires you prove history on paper. They strip you of this history and then expect you to prove it with records.”

Some allege that the tribe originated from the Lost Colony of Roanoke, although Hunt says this has been disproved. According to the Lumbee website, they are an amalgamation of various Siouan, Algonquian and Iroquoian speaking tribes.

Hence, the federal government struggles to define who is “Native enough” in the Lumbee community and who deserves the benefits that accompany recognition.

Defining Lumbee, however, goes far beyond the purview of the government.

“It’s ironic that the government is trying to define being Native when if they felt at all what it’s like to be Native they would know it doesn’t have to do with blood. We don’t have a long known history in comparison to other tribes, but that does not mean we don’t have the same sense of identity,” says sophomore Biology major Soleil Maynor.

Maynor speaks openly and fervently about her tribe. Her thoughtful answers and small nods indicate that she wants you to listen to what she has to say.  

“…and it kind of revalidates to me that race is a social construct.” she concludes.

Soleil Maynor

One could define being Lumbee by its traditions. The tribe hosts a Lumbee homecoming each July for about 10,000 people. Religion is also extremely important for them; some maintain those that they practiced before colonization while many others are Christian.

For members of the tribe, it seems that the definition of Lumbee is simple. “If you’re raised in the Lumbee community, you know what it means to be Lumbee, and you are Lumbee.” explains Maynor.

In the 1920s, anthropologist Carl Seltzer attempted to define “Native” by measuring physical characteristics of the Lumbee people. He put pencils in people’s hair and concluded that if the pencil fell, that person was Native. He only found that 22 out of the 209 people he studied fit his definition of “Native.”

Hunt explains, “It’s almost impossible for us to be Native to outsiders because people have misconceptions of what Native looks like. They think it is long, straight dark hair, high cheekbones and brown eyes.”

Language is perhaps one of the most distinctive attributes of a Lumbee person. Although their original language is lost, in part due to its criminalization at one point, they speak a unique dialect. Many perceive it as a Southern accent, but as Hunt says, “It’s much more than that. When I hear a Lumbee speak, I would know she’s Lumbee.”

Maynor agrees. “I could overhear someone talking and know right away that they’re Lumbee.” she said.

Because the dialect is so strong, many Lumbee people learn to downplay their accents.

“I know that code switching is common, but it’s sad for me when [my accent] is perceived as dumb, even by people in the community. A lot of people don’t see it as a dialect; they see it as speaking incorrectly. My aunt has lived in Charlotte for over 30 years and she doesn’t speak in our dialect at all and sometimes she even corrects me.” said Maynor.

Lumbee people also extract much of their identity from their land. They are highly concentrated in Robeson County, which is among the most dangerous and impoverished in the state. Because the area creates such a strong sense of community, it can be difficult to leave.

Woods says that 75 percent of his friends were Lumbee before coming to UNC Charlotte, where he only knows a few other Native people.

“I definitely feel like one percent of the population at UNC Charlotte and I definitely want to find a Native community here so I don’t have to feel like an outsider.” added Maynor.

The University does not report how many Lumbee students it has, but Native students do in fact make up less than one percent of the student body.

Discrimination is unfortunately another shared experience of Lumbee people, especially for those who leave their majority-Native hometowns.  

Maynor describes her experience of racism as, “when people ask or assume my ethnicity, and then act surprised and say ‘oh that’s so cool’ like it’s a novelty…I am the opposite of foreign because I am indigenous.”

Despite obstacles their nation has faced, the Lumbee people have not let the federal government or anyone else define them. They have shared successes, like opening the nation’s first Native university, and they have fostered a close-knit community, all without federal recognition.

When it comes down to it, Hunt says, “Lumbee is language; Lumbee is culture; Lumbee is family and Lumbee is land.”

Haven49: Worth the wait?

After three months of delays, students have finally moved into the Haven49 apartment complex. The original move-in date was pushed from Aug. 14 to Nov. 10 as the company struggled to finish construction and pass inspections. Tenants relocated to hotels, couches and homes far away from campus while they waited for the occupancy approval of their new apartments. Many accrued over $1,000 in stipend money as compensation for the major inconvenience.

Haven49 is an 887-bed/332-unit mid-rise apartment complex developed to house UNC Charlotte students. It is owned by Atlanta-based Haven Campus Communities and is the newest off-campus housing addition to the University community. The fall launch of Haven49 was widely anticipated and was to provide residents with state of the art technology and facilities, including a fitness center (which is still under construction), tanning room, resort-style pool and cabanas.

Construction workers and residents attributed the delays to poor management on behalf of Spire, the construction company that managed the project. As Haven grew more desperate, they hired outside contractors for assistance.

Many broke their leases in retaliation to the two month delay. However, none of these students have received reimbursement for the rent they already paid. Among those waiting for reimbursement is Spencer Gallimore, who filed a complaint with the NC Department of Justice claiming he is entitled to $2,700. Haven has hired a Georgia-based attorney to represent them for such rent-dispute cases.

But for those who stayed loyal to Haven, was the wait worth it?

Haven resident Gianna Agostino told the Niner Times, “There are nice parts but a lot is wrong, especially considering there were so many delays.”

Posts on the “Victims of Haven49” Facebook page, originally intended for students to commiserate and share information during the delays, have affirmed this. One of the major complaints of the group concerns trash in the hallways. Haven offers a trash collection service that has apparently been abused and left the hallways filled with garbage.

Agostino added, “My floors are scratched, my furniture is damaged and my fire alarms are faulty. The neighbors have also been rowdy and make messes with their dogs and trash.”

The “smart apartments” include an Amazon Echo, a smart HDTV and an app to control the lights, temperature and locks. Many of the “Victims of Haven49” say these features do not function properly, if at all.

As the fall semester comes to a close, many students are considering signing leases for the following year. Haven has not posted its prices yet and will not be accepting applications until December. While its amenities and technology will lure in many people, others surely will not forget the transgressions of the past few months.


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

 

Click here for the Spanish version of this article.

Sports analyst, journalist and activist Jemele Hill

On Oct. 30, widely esteemed journalist and activist Jemele Hill inspired hundreds of Charlotte students and community members. She engaged the crowd with a broad range of topics, including her experience as a woman of color in a white-male dominated field, her work as an activist and the importance of voting.

Hill specializes in sports journalism, a field that presents obstacles for women. She got her start at the Raleigh News & Observer, then moved to Detroit Free Press and later the Orlando Sentinel. She joined ESPN in 2006, where she was a co-anchor on SportsCenter with Michael Smith. Now Hill works as a staff writer for The Atlantic.

Hill’s talk at UNC Charlotte capitalized on sexism in male-dominated fields. She told students, “People think your ability to know and understand sports is directly linked to your genitalia. As a woman, and I think this isn’t just limited to sports; a lot of times you have to show what you are so they can stop looking at you for what you aren’t.”

She explained how this constant pressure can be deleterious to a woman’s self-image. “You just have to get used to a different level of scrutiny. You can sometimes internalize that and think that you can’t make a mistake. Don’t feel that you have to be perfect because men certainly don’t feel that way.”

Sam Palian, Sports Editor for the Niner Times, says she rarely experiences sexsim in her job. Her staff is uniquely diverse, consisting of 40 percent women. However, she said, “Sometimes coaches will say ‘oh that was a great question!’ as if they are surprised. I never thought of it as sexism, but sometimes I wonder if they actually mean that was a great question.”

Hill has established herself as a controversial figure in the journalism field. In 2008, she was suspended from ESPN for comparing the Boston Celtics to Adolf Hitler. “I showed very poor judgment in the words that I used. I pride myself on an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity — and there is no excuse for the appalling lack of sensitivity in my comments,” she said in an official statement.

Perhaps the most famous — or for some, notorious — controversy of Hill’s career was a Tweet about President Trump after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville: Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists” and “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. He is a direct result of white supremacy. Period” she wrote. President Trump fired back, claiming that ESPN’s ratings “tanked” because of Hill.

Hill stands by her decision to criticize President Trump. She told a UNC Charlotte student, “I thought I was saying water is wet. I didn’t really think or consider that this would have a negative impact on my career. I knew it was going to put me in a difficult spot with ESPN, but I certainly didn’t think it would derail my career.”

According to Jemele Hill, a little backlash is an inherent part of journalism. “Journalists are supposed to be the disrupters. They’re supposed to be the agitators. That was why I became a journalist,” she said.

Hill left ESPN with a $5 million buyout right after the Tweet, breaking her five-year contract.

Continuing her work as an activist, Hill emphasized the importance of voting during her speech to UNC Charlotte. She referenced the Florida mayoral race between Andrew Gillum, who she supports, and Ron DeSantis as an example that every vote matters.

Hill’s speech ultimately captured what she is already known for: journalism and activism. Looking over a crowd of mostly people of color, Hill implored these students to pressure newspapers across the country to diversify. Only 16.6% of the American news workforce is made up of people of color. 82% of all sports reporters are white men.

Jemele Hill has made it a priority to change these numbers by boldly integrating activism with sports journalism. Hill closed with a quote from Ida B. Wells that sums up this drive for change: “I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said.”