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

UNC Charlotte basketball player arrested for assault

Photo taken from Mecklenburg Public Records.

Basketball player Najee Garvin was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 20 for assault on a female. Garvin was arrested by UNC Charlotte Police at 4:08 p.m. and taken into Mecklenburg County custody at 8:11 p.m. He had a bond hearing Friday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. during which his bond was set at $2,500. He was released that same night.

Garvin is a junior forward for the 49ers basketball team. He is from Lexington, South Carolina.

The Athletics Department issued the following statement: “UNC Charlotte is aware of the arrest of student-athlete Najee Garvin. Garvin has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities. The University is reviewing the case consistent with its internal procedures. In light of the ongoing investigation, the University will not provide further comments.”

The crime is currently considered a misdemeanor. No additional information on the case has been published yet.

New conference center and hotel

A long standing dream of UNC Charlotte’s leaders will finally be realized with the construction of a Marriott Hotel and conference center. On August 28, the Charlotte City Council voted unanimously to invest $8 million of tourism taxes towards the project as well as approve rezoning.

The building is intended for research symposia and academic conferences. With 24,000 square feet, 226 rooms and a parking garage, it will accommodate up to 500 people. A conference center like this is typical of major research universities.

The hotel will be established on the 4.7 acres on the corner of North Tryon and J.W. Clay Boulevard already owned by the UNC Charlotte Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the University. It is strategically located by the light rail so that conference attendees can easily access City Center.

“This facility will serve as a new ‘front door’ to the University, providing a welcoming space for generations of 49ers and Charlotteans,” Niles Sorensen, President of the UNC Charlotte Foundation, told Inside UNC Charlotte. “We’ve been planning this for a long time and are eager for it to bring new opportunities for our faculty and alumni to connect to the larger community.”

The $87 million project will mostly be funded by the UNC Charlotte Foundation. The hotel will be owned by the Foundation and operated by Sage Hospitality of Denver, CO. The city will also support the project with $8 million.

The ambitious project is projected to be well worth the investment. It could generate $9 million from taxes in the first seven years while the net proceeds are expected to generate $7 million in the first five years. The hotel and conference center could also add roughly 210 jobs to the University City area, the second largest employment hub of Charlotte.

Chancellor Dubois told Inside UNC Charlotte, “Not only do these facilities serve as important amenities for the alumni and friends of these universities, but they are integral to building and sustaining the strong academic reputations of these institutions.”

The project is expected to begin January 2019 and reach completion by September 2020.

What we know about Hurricane Florence

The path of Hurricane Florence is constantly being monitored. This post will be updated with changing weather conditions and the responses of the University. Here is what we currently know:

As of Sunday, September 16 the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression with a sustained wind speed of 35 mph and moving at 8 mph. The center of the depression is over central South Carolina and moving west, meaning Charlotte is likely to experience much heavier rainfall today and Monday. The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for Mecklenburg County but North Carolina has already experienced a record breaking amount of rainfall at 30 inches. Over 18,000 households have lost power and the death toll has increased to at least 14.

As of Saturday, September 15 Hurricane Florence is now considered a tropical storm rather than a hurricane. Maximum sustained winds are 45 mph and moving extremely slowly at about 2 mph. Mecklenburg County recorded a current maximum of 1.8 inches of rainfall but the county is expected to receive 15 inches. 7,415 households have already lost power in Mecklenburg County. Classes and activities are now cancelled through Monday night while the library will remain open this weekend from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. UNC Charlotte Weather reporter Danielle Miller said we could see effects of the storm into Monday. 

As of Friday, September 14, Hurricane Florence is a Category 1 after the maximum wind speed decreased to 90 mph. However, the storm is taking a wider path than anticipated. The hurricane made landfall this morning at Wrightsville Beach and almost 500,000 people in North Carolina have already lost power. Duke Energy warned that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers could lose power over the next few days.

“It’s getting worse,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “The storm is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days and be a major inland event as well.”

The Housing and Residence Life office sent out an email to dorm residents warning of the potential for leaks and power outages. Campus is equipped with an emergency system to warn students of hazardous weather; if students hear a siren, they should go inside immediately and avoid windows. Each dorm has specified locations for these types of emergencies:

Taken from the 2018-19 Resident Handbook

Many Charlotte events have been cancelled this weekend and the Mint Museum and Levine Museum of the New South are closed. Charlotte currently has a wind speed of 24 mph with gusts over 30 mph and is now expected to get 10-15 inches of rain. Forecasters warn of an “extreme” risk of flooding on Saturday and Sunday. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be closed again on Monday as well as Charlotte city and Mecklenburg County offices.

As of Thursday, September 13 Hurricane Florence has been recategorized as Category 2. However, UNC Charlotte Weather Reporter Danielle Miller said that the category of the storm is not what matters. “The strength has decreased slightly but the power of the impacts that [the hurricane] brings on shore are still the same,” she said during a 12 p.m. report. The maximum wind speed decreased to 110 mph but the newest trajectory predicts the storm will come closer to Charlotte.  The forecast according to the Washington Post is “Cloudy, breezy summertime weather through Saturday, with showers possible at times. Winds pick up Saturday night into Sunday, gusting up to 30-40 mph, when rain is likely to move in. Rain could continue at times into early next week, with at least 3-6 inches of rain possible, which could cause flooding.” The chance of tornadoes caused by thunderstorms will also increase on Sunday. The dorms will remain open but the Student Health Center is closed Thursday and Friday. Students can still call the center to speak with a FoneMed nurse who will offer advice for acute illness and/or injuries. Dining hours have been modified and can be found here.

As of Wednesday, September 12 Hurricane Florence was still a Category 4 and expected to make landfall in North and South Carolina on Friday with wind speeds of 130 miles per hour. According to the National Hurricane Center, Charlotte was expected to receive 4-6 inches of rain. The University extended the cancellation of classes and activities through Sunday evening. An email sent out at 4:10 p.m. also noted that a decision regarding classes on Monday was to be made by Saturday at 5 p.m. The football game vs. Old Dominion at home was moved from Saturday to Thursday and family weekend as been rescheduled to November 16-17. Police and Public Safety will remain open while the University is closed. 

As of Tuesday morning, September 11 classes are still not cancelled. An email disseminated by the University stated, “the storm’s forecasted track has moved slightly to the north and east, which would reduce impacts to Charlotte. Expected effects from the storm continue to be moderate to heavy rain and some gusty winds.” However, the University pointed out that the storm is unpredictable and the path could change drastically before it touches land. As of 5:00 p.m. it was announced that classes and all other activities are cancelled from Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. through Friday at 11:59 p.m. Many other universities, including UNC Chapel Hill and NC Central University cancelled classes as well. Men’s soccer vs. FAU at home, football vs. Old Dominion at home and women’s soccer vs. Rice at home are still scheduled to occur. Volleyball at N.C. Central, women’s tennis at College of Charleston, men’s tennis at Liberty and at Duke and cross country at NC State have all been cancelled. In the meantime, many are buying bottled water and gasoline in anticipation of shortages. Charlotte Water spokesperson Jennifer Frost told the Charlotte Observer, “Right now, we are prepared for any emergency.”

As of Monday, September 10 Hurricane Florence is a Category 4. UNC Charlotte sent out an email informing students that there is a normal schedule under effect because the “…area is not expecting significant effects from the storm beyond moderate to heavy rain and some gusty winds.” According to the National Hurricane Center, the Charlotte region has a greater than 50 percent chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds (between 39 and 73 mph) later this week. Eastern Carolina University and NC State have both cancelled classes, ECU beginning Tuesday at noon and NC State beginning Wednesday evening. Dreamville Festival, which was supposed to take place Saturday in Raleigh, has been cancelled and all tickets refunded. Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency on September 7.

Haven49 remains untenable


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Update Three, Sept. 25: The opening of Haven49 has been delayed a fifth time to Oct. 6. Owner Jay Williams told residents in an email, “…we now believe it is potentially unlikely that we will receive our Certificate of Occupancy before Sept. 29.” However, a construction worker on the project who wishes to remain anonymous told Niner Times that the move-in date will be Oct. 13 at the earliest. The same worker attributed the delays to “shit management on behalf of Spire,” the construction company assigned to the project. According to the Victims of Haven49 Facebook page, Haven49 had already booked residents’ hotel rooms through Oct. 6 before the complex was delayed for a fifth time. The students currently living in Holiday Inn, Springhill Suites and Courtyard Marriott have to be relocated to different hotels due to an reserved rooms in anticipation of the NASCAR race this weekend.

Update Two, Sept. 18: Haven49 emailed residents on the evening of Sept. 18 to inform them that the move-in date will be postponed for a fourth time, now opening on Sept. 29. The email explained that Hurricane Florence delayed the construction crew after several workers returned home to be with their families and others were deployed by the County. The project still has 141 outstanding holds.

Update, Sept. 11: Haven49 updated their website by 9:20 a.m. on Sept. 11 to announce that the move-in is once again postponed, this time to Sept. 22. Residents were informed via email at 11:43 a.m. The email cited Hurricane Florence as a reason for the new delay.

 

Hundreds of students are forced to find alternative housing after apartment complex Haven49 once again delayed its opening, this time promising housing by Sept. 15. The first delay postponed the move-in date from August 15 to August 31.

Haven49 is a 887-bed/332-unit, mid-rise apartment complex intended to house UNC Charlotte students. It is owned and developed by 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, tanning room, resort-style pool and cabanas.

UNC Charlotte junior Maria Cruzat is one of the many affected by the delays.  

“Due to construction patterns in Charlotte, I am not too surprised by the delays,” Cruzat told the Niner Times. “I understand that no parties favor this situation, but I would have liked for Haven49 to be more transparent about the status of the apartment.”

After the initial delay to August 31, students were given two options for compensation. They could put their August rent towards a hotel room with transportation provided to and from campus along with a $500 Visa gift card, or they could find alternative housing, receive a $1,000 stipend and push rent payment back to Sept. Rent is roughly $650. After the second delay to Sept. 15, those living in hotels can choose to receive $250 per week until move-in or apply their Sept. rent payment to October. Some of these students have been assigned to a hotel near Concord Mills without any provided transportation to campus. Those who continue to find other living accommodations will receive the $250 per week and have their rent payment pushed back to October.

For many, the help is not quite enough. Because residents do not have the access they anticipated to certain facilities, they are forced to eat out, pay for laundry service, and even find storage for their belongings.

One parent told WSOCTV, “I think it borders on criminal. I really do.”

Another student created a Facebook page called “Victims of Haven49.”

Many are confused by the inconspicuous cause of the construction delays. Peter Jakel, Public Relations Representative for Haven49, offered an explanation: “Construction projects are very complex and each stage affects the timing of the next stage, and in many cases you’re able to make up lost time in future stages. So it’s unfortunately impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of any delay.”

County records show that the building has 138 outstanding holds – the parking garage alone has seven –and several failed inspections. A hold is placed on a project until certain requirements are met and the project cannot pass its final inspection until these are fulfilled. The complex failed an inspection on August 16, a day after students were originally expected to move in. This inspection has yet to be passed. However, the building does have all of its necessary permits. Students will not be able to move in until a final inspection is passed and a certificate of occupancy is issued. According to county data, the construction has cost Haven49 $19,182,300 to date.

Mecklenburg County Officials stated via email, “the project is currently under active construction but still has multiple holds from county and city agencies before a certificate of occupancy can be issued.”

Haven49 owner Jay Williams stated “we certainly have not made this easy, and for that, I am sorry.”

Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Debt and discrimination: what it means to be LGBTQ+ and in debt

The phrase “student loan debt” no doubt evokes anxiety in most college students. However, this worry is more potent for some groups than others. A report by Student Loan Hero found that 60 percent of LGBTQ+ student loan borrowers regret taking on debt, compared with 45 percent of student loan borrowers in the general population.

The research sampled over 11,000 LGBTQ+ adults nationally. It reveals how discrimination affects the financial situation of LGBTQ+ people.

And what exactly is this situation? LGBTQ+ borrowers are more likely than the general population to make less than $50,000 a year. This discrepancy exacerbates struggles with debt: Student Loan Hero found that on average, LGBTQ+ respondents have $112,607 in student loan debt, about $16,000 more than the general population average of $96,211.

According to John Schneider, a nationally recognized LGBTQ+ personal finance expert, there may be a couple of reasons for the lower wages in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Two reasons could be systemic and inherent biases, as highlighted by [a study out of the University Surrey] that shows that people who sound or appear LGBTQ+ are less likely to be hired, are paid less and aren’t promoted,” explains Schneider. “Another could be an adversity to risk within the queer community leading to fewer examples of successful LGBT people relative to the general population. Lastly, it could be that a large percentage of the queer community are also members of other communities that tend to skew lower on the income scale.”

As Schneider points out, LGBTQ+ employees walk on more precarious ground than do their peers. According to Out & Equal, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ equality, one in four LGBTQ+ workers have experienced employment discrimination in the past five years, and nearly one in ten have left a job due to an unwelcoming environment. In many cases, this marginalization is completely legal. In 28 states you can be fired on the basis of your sexual orientation and in 30 states for your gender identity. Workplace discrimination can range from denial of employment to exclusion from networking events that take place outside of work.

The financial challenges often start at home. Only 39 percent of Student Loan Hero’s respondents reported feeling “entirely accepted” by their families and 33 percent reported being kicked out of home at some point. In fact, according to Voices of Youth Count, LGBTQ+ youth are 120 percent more likely than their peers to become homeless.

There are financial disparities within the LGBTQ+ community as well. Schneider points out that “Heterosexual males indicate the highest incomes, followed by gay men, heterosexual women and then lesbian women. Trans people suffer the worst. In fact, trans people are four times more likely to live on incomes below $10,000 a year.” In addition, transgender people experience unemployment at a rate three times the national average.

So what can be done? Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, the obstacles continue. 31 percent of respondents to the Student Loan Hero survey report being denied financial help due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Scholarships designed for LGBTQ+ students can offer significant help, but for now the financial disparities persist.

 

New scholarship honors the late UNC Charlotte professor

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte.

You can discern how close-knit a community is by the way it handles tragedy. UNC Charlotte proved its unity by establishing the Dr. Jeannine S. Skinner Memorial Scholarship in the wake of Skinner’s death in September.

Skinner was killed on September 1 in her Kings Parade Boulevard apartment at age 35. Donne Lewis Franklin, 45, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder and will spend 28 years in prison. He was identified as her boyfriend but police have not released a motive for the homicide.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Franklin has a history of assault arrests from Virginia and North Carolina dating back to 1996. In addition to first-degree murder, he has been found guilty of assault and battery, burglary with intent to commit assault and trespassing.

Skinner’s time at UNC Charlotte was short-lived, but her impact on the university was anything but. She joined in the fall of 2016 as an assistant professor of psychology and gerontology. Her research focused on physical, psychological, social and environmental predictors of cognitive aging, particularly in minority geriatric populations. She extended her passion for helping elderly minority populations beyond the lab and created an athletic program for low income, minority seniors who did not have a place to exercise as a way to prevent their cognitive decline. She was in the process of applying for a grant to implement the program nationwide while also working on her Ph.D. from Howard University. Outside of academia, Skinner enjoyed running and was active in her church community.

Dr. Erika Montanaro, an assistant professor in the psychology department at UNC Charlotte, is one of the many loving friends whom Skinner left behind.

“Dr. Skinner was a friend and colleague,” Montanaro said. “We started at UNC Charlotte at the same time. Her infectious smile and giving spirit were things I admired about her and miss seeing at work every day.”

In September, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois released a statement about Skinner’s passing.

“We grieve for Jeannine’s family and we hope that joyful memories of her life will sustain them in the days to come,” he said. “I hope those of you who were her students and colleagues will remember Jeannine for her accomplishments and for the influence she had on your lives.”

The Dr. Jeannine S. Skinner Memorial Scholarship is a way to remember her. Montanaro and Ruggs created a UNC Charlotte crowdfunding page with a $25,000 goal to create this new scholarship in Skinner’s name. So far they have raised nearly $17,000 thanks to donations from Skinner’s family, friends and colleagues.

Dr. Skinner was passionate about providing opportunities for student research and learning, so to honor this passion, we have established a scholarship fund to support graduate student research and provide funds for conference travel opportunities,” explained Montanaro.  

The scholarship is for graduate students who plan to follow in Skinner’s footsteps and conduct research in the fields of psychology and/or gerontology. It will also help fund research related to Skinner’s own interest in neuropsychology and her work on improving the physical and psychological health of seniors through physical activity.

Hopefully, in this way, UNC Charlotte can continue the legacy of inclusion and compassion that Skinner lived her life by.

Fed up with dining hall hours

SoVi. NT File Photo.

Students are fed up with dining hall hours, or at least that’s what a recent survey indicates.

A Student Government Association (SGA) survey of 1,254 people conducted during the spring elections found 96 percent of students are in favor of extending dining hall hours.

SGA passed a bill to recognize these grievances. The legislation, sponsored by freshman at-large senator Jacob Baum, calls for Crown Commons and SoVi to extend their hours until 10 p.m. starting in the fall semester of 2018.

Sahithi Meduri, sophomore class president-elect, was a sponsor of the bill alongside Baum. She said current dining hall hours are not fair to students with late classes.

“Many students have things going on until 9:15 p.m. and dining halls close at 8:30 p.m,” she said. “[We] didn’t think it was fair and wanted more options [for students] than fast food.”

While Chic-fil-A is open until 10 p.m. on weekdays, Atkins café until 11 p.m. and Wendy’s until 12:30 a.m., SoVi and Crown Commons dining halls both close at 8:30 p.m. Next semester, classes will run as late as 11:15 p.m. SGA believes students should have access to healthier foods throughout the day.

Meduri thinks students have the right to the extra hours because other UNC schools have better dining options.

“I believe it should already be included in what we already pay in our tuition because other schools in our system have longer hours and more dining food options,” she said.

UNC Charlotte’s cheapest meal plan is $1,185, although students must have 90 credit hours in order to qualify for this option. The cheapest meal plan for freshmen is $2,125. UNC Chapel Hill’s cheapest plan is $1,378, but their latest dining hall is open until 12 a.m. NC State’s cheapest plan is $1,750 and their dining halls are open until 9 p.m. The cheapest plan at East Carolina University is $1,925 and their last dining hall closes at 11 p.m. Although UNC Charlotte does offer the cheapest meal plan, that plan is only available to upperclassmen and freshmen have to pay the most expensive plan of these four schools. In addition, Charlotte offers the shortest dining hall hours.

Freshman Soleil Maynor disagrees with many of her classmates about extending the hours.

“I wish they wouldn’t do it,” she said. “I feel like it might mess with the dining hall employees’ shifts in a very undesirable way and I’m sure they already get home late because they have to clean up afterwards.”

Meduri said she is unsure whether dining hall employees would be paid overtime for working past the current closing times.

The bill is a formal suggestion and does not ensure dining hours will be extended. However, Meduri is confident that the university and the regional district manager of Chartwells Dining — our long-standing catering company — will collaborate to meet student demands.

Dance Marathon raises $101,761 for Levine Children’s Hospital


Photos by Chris Crews and Leysha Caraballo.

On April 7, hundreds of people gathered in Halton Arena where they would dance for 12 hours to raise money for the Levine Children’s Hospital. The night marked the culmination of a year and a half of fundraising by UNC Charlotte Dance Marathon. The group is the largest philanthropic organization at UNC Charlotte, joining 300 universities nationwide to raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.  

The organization was founded in 1991 by Indiana University in memory of Ryan White, a student who passed away from HIV/AIDS. Dance Marathon has become one of the most widespread student-led philanthropies and in 2016, all Dance Marathon organizations raised a combined total of  $32,434,341 with nine campuses raising over $1 million annually. The UNC Charlotte group was founded by the first class of Levine Scholars as “Dance Mine” in 2013.

Sarah Richardson, development officer for the Levine Children’s Hospital, was a senior for that premier 12-hour dance. Now, she serves as an advisor for Charlotte’s Dance Marathon. “It’s been really cool to see how the program has grown and evolved,” she said. The group has gone from raising $35,000 in their first year to their largest fundraising effort yet: $101,761.

The realization of the group’s goals that night was clear: the night was filled with activities and performances that uplifted miracle children, families, dancers and volunteers. Family Relations Chair Cassandra Campagna began the event by dedicating the 12 hours to Brooke Hair, a miracle child who had survived traumatic brain injury after a car accident, but passed away in March of 2017 from a complication during surgery.

With Brooke and other miracle children in mind, dancers were challenged to raise $1,000 during “power hour.” By calling friends and family and other fundraising efforts, the goal was exceeded by $652.

There were several miracle families in attendance who shared their stories throughout the night. One of the parents was Melissa Brown, mother to four young boys. Daeton has cystic fibrosis, severe tracheomalacia, a gastronomy tube to help with eating and is also hearing impaired. His brother Ryder has a VP shunt because he has an overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid. He has had 31 major hip surgeries and is only 8 years old.

Levine Children’s Hospital provides these children with crucial treatment, but Dance Marathon provides them with valuable support. “It’s fun to be here. They get to be kind of like the star and get special attention, but not for their illnesses,” said Brown.

The children and dancers enjoyed the wheelchair basketball game between Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets and a few Dance Marathon members. There was also Zumba, a bouncy house and an organized dance to keep up the morale every hour. Around 3 a.m. when people were at their most competitive, there was a DJ challenge in which dancers had to pick the best songs for certain occasions, followed by a lip syncing challenge.

Miracle child Madi, age 9, said, “I like the fun activities. You can eat; you can dance.” This was Madi’s third year eating and dancing at Dance Marathon.

The event lasted until 6 a.m., when the final amount of funds raised was revealed. The Dance Marathon directors and chairs fell into tears of exhaustion and happiness: $101,761. The group had more than doubled their funds from last year and exceeded their goal of $100,000. All of the money will go to the children’s hospital where it will be used for life-saving equipment that does not get covered by their budget.

In addition, the Levine family challenged the Charlotte community to raise $500,000 for the Levine Children’s Hospital. The Dawson, Sklut, Howard Levine and Leon Levine families will match every donation, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 until May 17. This means that all of the money raised the night of Dance Marathon was doubled.

Development Director Megan Woody attributes the fundraising success to individual efforts. “There was a big push on personal fundraising this year and we really tried to involve all of our dancers,” Woody said. Woody says her favorite part of Dance Marathon is when they reveal how much money was raised.

Zeta Beta Tau was recognized as the largest group donor, contributing over $6,000. But the biggest source of money wasn’t any single sponsor: it was the dancers themselves. Each person at Dance Marathon has a large impact and Dance Marathon always need more help. You can get involved next year by registering to dance, serving on a committee or raising funds for the miracle kids.

What are UNC Charlotte’s rules about firearms?

With the recent Parkland shooting, debate over the minimum age to buy AR-15s and even a UNC Charlotte shooting threat, people are questioning the safety of our nation’s schools. Many point toward our federal gun laws as a contributor to so much violence. So, what are UNC Charlotte’s rules about firearms? What action is your own school taking to protect your rights and keep you safe?

It might not shock you to learn that no one — except for police officers — is allowed to carry a firearm on campus. What may surprise you, however, is that according to university policy you can store a gun in your car.

There are some conditions, of course. You must have a concealed handgun permit, known in North Carolina as a CWP. In addition, the firearm must be stored inside a locked box within the vehicle. A locked glove compartment does not suffice. It is a felony to improperly store a gun in your car (i.e. to not lock it up). The statute was established by the General Assembly for all UNC campuses and confirmed by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois in 2013.

All other firearms policies are in accordance with the state. It is a class I felony to carry any firearm, concealed or open, on educational property and a class I misdemeanor to carry any BB gun, stun gun, air rifle or air pistol. Even if you have a permit, it is a felony to carry in places where guns are prohibited, like UNC campuses or certain stores. Sworn police officers may carry a gun anywhere in the state of North Carolina – including college campuses – but they can only carry out their duties as police officers within their jurisdictions.

So how effective are these laws? UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeff Baker thinks they promote a safe environment on campus. Since he started working here in 2009, he has never experienced any gun violence or dealt with any students violating the firearms policy. However, people unaffiliated with the university who cut through campus have been caught with assault rifles in their vehicle. In his nine years at Charlotte, he says, he has only seen about nine cases dealing with firearms.

In March, a UNC Charlotte student was committed to a hospital and then arrested after threatening to “buy a gun and shoot the university up.” Police officers seized blueprints, composition books and posters from the student, but did not recover any guns. The student has since been released from jail and spotted at other campuses, including an elementary school in Carroll County, Virginia.

The threat of school shootings has stirred the whole country. On March 24, Charlotte residents joined the millions of people across the United States marching for stricter gun control. The rally was organized by students and attended by Sandy Hook survivors Criss and Ella Berke.

What do students think of our firearms policies? UNC Charlotte College Republicans Chair Keith Maples envisions different regulations for UNC Charlotte. “I think we should have concealed carry with extreme exceptions,” he said. “There needs to be tough vetting. There needs to be mental and psychological exams. We should only allow pistols. All you need to stop an intruder is a pistol. They should be allowed everywhere on campus including dorms, but students should report their weapons to officials, including professors.”

UNC Charlotte College Democrats Treasurer Bryan McCollom takes a different stance: “I think the gun safety laws in regards to college campuses are suitable as is,” he said. “[The College Democrats] would be against anything that weakens these restrictions.”

The safety of our campus is contingent on more than just gun restrictions. Blue light phones, for example, are an important part of our safety network. According to Baker, it takes 10 to 15 seconds for a police officer to show up to the site of a blue light activation. UNC Charlotte also offers the LiveSafe App, which allows students to call and text police officers, use GPS services to locate nearest buildings and utilize a location service that allows selected contacts in your phone to temporarily track your movements while you walk to your destination.

Both Maples and McCollom believe that too many students are unaware of our firearms policies. While no student wants to memorize the Code of Conduct or sift through the Information Technology Policy, it is prudent that students know about the policies that affect their own safety.

Meet the candidates: Mildred Martinez, RJ Chisolm

Mildred Martinez and RJ Chisolm. Photo courtesy of Mildred Martinez.

Mildred Martinez, a junior biology major and economics minor, is running for student body president. She’s been with Student Government Association (SGA) since she was a freshman.

“That’s when I learned about all the changes being made on campus,” she said. “There are a lot of things that administration does and we just get a heads up. I want to keep up that relationship where they communicate what they’re doing with us.”

Martinez continues to serve SGA as the secretary for academic affairs in the executive cabinet.

She says SGA has helped her to gain an appreciation for campus-wide affairs. “I want to demonstrate to other students this is what we’re doing and why. Students need to know where their money is going.”

She is also the secretary of Allied Health, a member of the National Society for Leadership and Success, and a former orientation counselor, where she got to know her running mate RJ Chisolm.

Chisolm, an exercise science major, is running alongside Martinez as student body vice president. He currently serves as the IT secretary for the executive cabinet, the program coordinator of the Campus Activities Board and a SAFE Counselor.

“I firmly believe that if you want to make a change to your environment you have to take that step instead of waiting on someone to take action for you,” he said. “I have a lot of connections to utilize and make a change to the campus and make it better for those who come after me.”

The two are running on a platform of “Comfort, Commitment and Comfortability.” They stress the importance of students feeling comfortable and able to express who they are during their time at UNC Charlotte. They also want to be accessible and serve as a liaison between students and administration.

Martinez and Chisolm agree that the university’s rapidly growing population presents a large organizational problem. However, as they see it, there could be a bright side. Chisolm thinks this could be a chance for students to get more involved in student government while Martinez pointed out her academic experience is far more diverse than of her friends who attend smaller universities.

“I have been able to see the community grow just even interacting in a library,” said Martinez. “Students make this campus a great place. It’s something I will always be happy about because other friends of mine can’t see students from as many different backgrounds like I can.”

However, the team agrees it’s not enough to be diverse. “We have to connect students from different backgrounds.”

“A lot of the organizations are afraid to mix with different organizations,” Chisolm said. “Latino organizations cosponsor events with other Latinos and Blacks with Blacks. There can be a bigger way for students to be heard if they collaborate.”

They are running against Niayai Lavien and Chandler Crean. “It’s going to be a tough challenge,” Martinez said. “They’re strong people; they know what they want and their platform is well thought out.”

The election will take place online at vote.uncc.edu on March 27 and 28. Students can also vote for sophomore, junior and senior class presidents as well as senators.

If elected, they will be sworn in April 12.

Schedule Wizard brings magic to the registration process

Goodbye to managing multiple tabs, scribbling down course times and keeping a list of ID numbers all in order to craft the perfect schedule. UNC Charlotte has a new web-based registration tool for students: Schedule Wizard. Now undergraduate and graduate students can block off time for breaks and other commitments, generate possible schedules and register for classes all from one website.

According to Beth Dawson from the Office of Registrar, who helped with the development of Schedule Wizard, UNC Charlotte switched to the new tool in order to promote graduation by maximizing the number of credit hours students can take. Over 200 other universities already use the service, including ECU, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill.

For those skeptics out there, this website is actually easy to use. As soon as the course listings are available, Schedule Wizard can be accessed from the My UNCC Portal under “Quick Links” or under the registration menu in Banner Self Service. Before searching for classes, students can apply filters like open or waitlisted classes, uptown or main campus locations and face-to-face, hybrid or online type courses. They can also choose to search by instructor. Students can then add their desired courses, add breaks for the gym, meetings, personal time or anything else, and then generate schedules. Students will receive different combinations of schedules. In order to reduce the number of possible schedules they can “lock in” certain courses or delete specific schedules. They can also “favorite” their top schedule or label them to distinguish which ones they prefer. Once students choose their schedule, they can send it straight to their shopping cart and register from there when registration opens.

Dawson said the ability to add breaks is the tool’s best feature.

“Students are able to better plan around those times they are not available to attend classes and still have the ability to maximize the credit hours for the term.”

Schedule Wizard was chosen as the new registration tool for UNC Charlotte because it streamlines the registration process by automating schedule planning, enables students to maximize their credit hours while balancing personal priorities, allows students to easily identify their breaks and time conflicts and creates optimized schedules that increase credit hours, term over term persistence and graduation rates.

Students are already loving the new registration process.

“Schedule Wizard is actually a lifesaver,” said Chiamaka Okonkwo, who used to write down all her of class sections and times and generate a schedule herself. If students encounter difficulties with the new registration service, Niner Central and the ITS help desk are trained and available to assist students with trouble shooting.

Chamber Orchestra performs in Vancouver

On March 3, UNC Charlotte’s Chamber Orchestra traveled to Vancouver to perform at local schools and the Kay Meeks Performing Arts Center.

The Chamber Orchestra is the highest level orchestral group at UNC Charlotte. Conductor Dr. Jonathan Govias has been with the orchestra since its inception in 2013. Govias is a Canada native himself and is excited for the “pedagogical impact the trip will have on [the] students and [the] social impact on [the] community.”

Vancouver was the orchestra’s sixth international program in three years. Previously they travelled to Montreal, London, Oxford, Birmingham, Glasgow, Scotland, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Baltimore. Senior and principal cellist Andrew Llamas accompanied the orchestra to Israel, Montreal and New Zealand. According to Llamas, it is important to play music abroad because it “opens up a lot of new perspectives on what our field actually is.”

The orchestra played Dmitry Kablavesky’s “The Comedians,” Suad Bushnaq’s “Ghadan (Tomorrow)” and Christine Donkin’s “Frosted Pane.”

The opportunity to travel and play music is invaluable to Govias, as he decided he wanted to be a musician on a three week tour of Europe at age 18.

“I genuinely believe that an orchestra is a platform for changing lives, not just the people in it but the people with whom it interacts. Every time we travel we try to change the lives of our musicians and our partners. We have been very productive with that,” he said.

If you didn’t make it to Vancouver to hear them play, the orchestra will perform at Belk Theater on April 27 for their annual Diversity Concert.

Generous donor Irwin Belk passes away

Benefactor and former state senator Irwin “Ike” Belk passed away on Feb. 24 at 95 years old.

Belk was an influential force for UNC Charlotte. His relationship with the school goes back to the 1960s, when he introduced and promoted a bill authorizing the state to convert the two-year Charlotte College into the four-year university it is today.

“We have lost a giant figure in the history of our University,” Chancellor Philip L. Dubois told Inside UNC Charlotte. “Ike Belk will be remembered for generations to come not only for his generosity and commitment to the growth and expanding service of UNC Charlotte, but as a hero at the pivotal moment at which we became the fourth member of the University of North Carolina System.”

After the university’s establishment, Belk served as an original member of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees and as a member of the UNC Board of Governors. His influence is visible on campus through the donation of over 25 statues beautifying UNC Charlotte. He and his wife funded the Irwin Belk Track and Field Complex and commissioned four large bronze statues to stand at the entrance. They also funded an athletic complex at Johnson C. Smith University with an Olympic-sized track. Belk emphasized the role of physical health in one’s education and is the largest contributor to 49er athletics.

“Ike was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I have ever known,” Athletic Director Judy Rose told Inside UNC Charlotte. “His generosity can be seen throughout our campus. Many of our athletic facilities are a direct result of his interest and love for the university. I am grateful to have been the beneficiary of his loving friendship. His influence within our athletics program will last in perpetuity.”

Belk’s generosity spans areas far beyond UNC Charlotte. He served in the esteemed 8th Air Force during WWII and returned to be active in educational, political, and religious life, serving two terms as a United Nations delegate. In 1995, he and his wife donated $1 million to Discovery Place, the most generous donation the nonprofit had ever received. In 2007, he was honored by UNC Charlotte with the Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service and leadership to the Charlotte community and the advancement of UNC Charlotte.

Belk was the son of William Belk, founder of Belk department stores. Irwin Belk was preceded in death by his wife Carol Grotnes Belk, to whom he was married for 66 years. He had two daughters: Irene Belk Miltimore for whom Miltmore Hall is named, and Marilyn Belk Wallis for whom Wallis Hall bears the namesake. He is also survived by his two sons, William Belk and Carl Belk, who took his father’s place on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Irwin Belk once said, “My father always taught us that those who were fortunate enough to possess or earn wealth had a special responsibility to both use it wisely and to share it with those less fortunate. If you don’t take care of this generation, the next one won’t be worth shooting. My advice is to throw the roses where you can smell them. Don’t wait until you’re dead and gone. Do it now.”

Professor emerita recounts Holocaust experience

“You didn’t have very much time for God. What God would be there?”

Students shifted in their seats, uncomfortable and saddened by the words of Holocaust survivor Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz. On February 20, the UNC Charlotte professor emerita of German literature gave a lecture that ensured that students would never forget the atrocities of that period. She sat almost hidden behind a table that held a microphone and a dimly lit lamp that would set the somber mood of the hour.

Cernyak-Spatz was born in Vienna in 1922. She lived in Berlin with her mother and father from 1929 to 1936.

“My family was upper middle class,” she said. “We were never really bothered by persecution before World War II.”

But when the Nazi army occupied Austria in the 1938 Anschluss, Cernyak-Spatz and her family were forced to flee to Prague. Soon after, her father escaped to Brussels via Poland, leaving the two women behind.

In May of 1942, Cernyak-Spatz and her mother were deported to Theresienstadt, the “special ghetto,” where people were held before transport to concentration camps. Once they arrived, her mother was sent to the Sobibór camp where she was murdered — a death, as Cernyak-Spatz put it, “probably more merciful than Auschwitz.”

Cernyak-Spatz stayed at the ghetto until 1943 when she was deported to Auschwitz. Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Nazis, overseeing the deaths of 1.1 million of the 1.3 million sent to the camp. Cernyak-Spatz was sent to the second camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was here that she watched the so-called “Final Solution” unfold.

She described the four large crematoriums, each with a disrobing area, gas chamber, and crematorium oven.

“When the train drove into the camp the only thing you could see was one chimney. It was the first crematorium. There was an incredible smell. A stink. Nobody could identify it because who in his right mind would have known that there were at least one thousand human corpses burning under these flames.”

She was selected for work and received a Russian uniform, taken from Russian prisoners of war who were persecuted second only to the Jews. She was branded with an identifying number, which she unabashedly pulled down her sleeve to show the audience. “34042,” it read in small black numerals, with a tiny triangle underneath to distinguish her as Jewish. “Only the Jewish prisoners could be put into the ovens without any questions,” Cernyak-Spatz explained frankly.

Then she received what would be her only possession: a bowl for drinking, washing and relieving herself. To Cernyak-Spatz, it represented “the total abyss of dehumanization.”

“Dying was very easy. If you wanted to live, you had to work very hard.”

And she did just that. She slept on the top bunk to avoid having urine poured on her, washed her hands and face every day to give the impression that she was healthy and fit for work, and avoided the water fountains, which were full of typhoid. Her most useful trick of all, though, was her multilingualism. She spoke English, German, Czech and French. She became an interpreter for the Slovak block leader, who would often invite her into the blockroom to repay her for her duties. Cernyak-Spatz made connections and was promoted to a bookkeeper, registering prisoners’ names, numbers and professions.

After a brief period of hospitalization in February of 1944, Cernyak-Spatz returned to Birkenau to work in the Kanada-Kommando, sorting food and transports’ property. She found some sort of haven within the camp.

“It was the most luxurious department,” she said.

Life was yet again disrupted on January 17, 1945, when the head of the Kommando went into the barracks and instructed the inmates to grab as many supplies as they would need for a “very long walk.” The next day, 58,000 people from all three Auschwitz camps were sent on the Death March, a 39-mile journey in the freezing German winter. “Fuhrer (Hitler) is dead!” people would shout, but they walked through the excitement. 15,000 died along the way.

They arrived in Loslau, where Cernyak-Spatz and the other women were sent to KZ Ravensbrueck, the largest women’s concentration camp. She stayed there until April of 1945 when they were again deported, this time to the West to avoid the Russian advance. Upon arrival at the American checkpoint, Cernyak-Spatz and her group met an American GI. They told him they came from extermination camps and his eyes widened like she had never seen before. “What the hell is an extermination camp?”

It had been three years since the arrest of Cernyak-Spatz and her mother.

“All of a sudden I could run and jump, sit down, do whatever I wanted. I was free. And that was my liberation,” she said.

Cernyak-Spatz took advantage of that freedom. She worked for the American Counter Intelligence Corps as an interpreter and met someone who reconnected her with her father. On July 4, 1946, she came to America after marrying an American GI. She raised two children, worked in a shoe store, went back to school starting as a freshman in 1963 and obtained her PhD in 1972. She continues to lecture on her experience during the Holocaust and has even gone back with her children and husband to visit the concentration camps.

“It wasn’t easy, but anything was a joy to do as long as I was free and had the chance to have a goal and be alive and productive.”

And what does Cernyak-Spatz want to see in the world now?

“Please stay human,” she said, seeming to lock eyes with each audience member as she asked them to learn from the atrocities of the powerful SS officers and the Nazi regime.

“Please try not to forget and please stay human.”