Ronak Vora

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Ronak is a junior at UNCC who is double majoring in Marketing and Mass Media with a minor in Journalism. He's from Greensboro, NC and wants to live in L.A. one day. In his free time he enjoys playing sports, traveling, or writing.

On-campus housing

Continuing to advertise a service when you can no longer provide it to your customers can never be good. UNC Charlotte’s Housing and Residence Life’s website has continued to advertise their on-campus housing despite campus housing being nearly at capacity, which some people may find fault with. But the situation isn’t as bad as it may seem; UNC Charlotte has hit a new enrollment record of 29,710 students. With all the growth, on-campus housing is in high demand. The department of Housing and Residence Life has done everything to keep up with the high rate of demand for on-campus housing and isn’t at fault here because housing capacity isn’t and has never been 100% full. Can you blame them for trying to fill up spaces so their fixed costs won’t be wasted? Advertising of on-campus housing shouldn’t stop until there is absolutely no more space.

The pressure from students and the media should shift to state funders to invest more into expanding on-campus housing. The Housing department also preaches to students to apply early to get the spots they want, but according to members of the housing department, students who don’t apply in a timely manner blame the University for not getting what they want. Housing has never been at a 100% occupancy, but if every student were to apply, there would be no way everyone could stay on campus with only 6,200 beds available. The housing department knows this and has built relationships with off-campus housing through various programs that enable a student to have the same experience they’d have on-campus.

According to an article by the Charlotte Observer, UNC Charlotte has spent $1.2 billion on construction since 2005. While it’s admirable how much the University has developed on-campus housing since that time, the need for more development is greater than before. UNC Charlotte has the fourth highest enrollment ranking among 17 schools in the UNC system, a rate comparable to UNC Chapel Hill and NC State. UNC Charlotte currently has 17 residence halls. UNC Chapel Hill has 31 residence halls and NC State has 22 residence halls. More residence halls allow these universities who have similar enrollment numbers as UNCC to allow more students to stay on campus. Reports from the University’s home page also shows that UNC Charlotte is spending $250 million on campus development. This money is going towards the construction of a new recreation center, a new science building and a new hotel. Some of this money could also be spent on building more residence halls. On-campus housing isn’t full this year, but given the increasing enrollment rates, it may be in coming years.

In an article on WSOC-TV, freshman Stephen Zargo reported the difficulties of getting the room he wanted. “The housing I applied for, I wasn’t able to get it. It was really disappointing because I didn’t like living in a high-rise.” We don’t know Zargo’s complete situation, but the housing department guarantees that students who apply early enough will get the housing they want. Dr. Aaron Hart, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, oversees housing and residence life at UNCC. In an interview, he spoke of the issues with students twisting the tale of blaming housing for not getting the room they want. “Every student, if they apply early enough, is guaranteed to get what they want, but they don’t apply early enough,” said Hart. “One of the things that I’m going to be honest about is a lot of our students…wait ’til the last minute, then they get upset about not getting their first choice. They say we don’t have housing.” He compared it to going to a restaurant by saying, “It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and they don’t have your dish and you say that they’re out of food. Well, that’s not true. They’re not out of food; they just don’t have what you want.” Ultimately, housing isn’t at fault here.

Critics of the housing department have said that on-campus housing will be even more scarce when UNC Charlotte tears down Moore and Sanford, two of the oldest residential buildings in South Campus. Hart countered that by referencing the past when the housing department easily accommodated every student that applied while Greek Village and Levine Hall were simultaneously under construction. Jacopo Vismara, a student who made the decision to live on-campus, had an issue with housing continuing to promise students any space they want when they know that everyone can’t get the spaces they want. “They told me I would get a single room in Moore, but I ended up sharing with someone else even after I confirmed with them many times.” said Vismara.

UNC Charlotte has continued to advertise housing because there is still space left. The University has set out certain guidelines to get the students the housing they want. It’s our job as students to play by the rules, be more attentive and trust that the housing department won’t let us down. The University will keep growing and the pressure should be brought down upon the shoulders of funders to build more, but for now, the Department of Housing and Residency Life can’t be blamed for trying to advertise something they’re actually still capable of giving students.

The internal problem with the War on Drugs

Currently on trial in New York City is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord also known as “El Chapo.” According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel supplied more than 80 percent of the drugs that flooded U.S. streets. Despite Guzman being captured, drug abuse consistently continues in America and the Sinaloa Cartel continues to earn billions.

Countless other suppliers like Guzmán have been caught over the years and yet America’s “War on Drugs,” which was declared in 1971, is a failure. It’s failed because according to the DEA, over the past four decades, American taxpayers have spent $1 trillion on the “War on Drugs” while only capturing less than 10 percent of all illicit drugs. These results have brought us a steady disappointment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug addiction rates since 1971 have all been constant while at the same time 2.2 million Americans have gone to prison. All that’s come from this conflict is mass incarceration and a massive overdose crisis. The U.S. government treated it like a supply issue and failed. That’s because drug cartels like Guzmán’s aren’t the problem; we are. The common saying, “There is no supply without demand,” applies to this situation.

Our wild abuse of substances has run rampant. A report from the U.S. Surgeon General suggests that 21 million Americans struggle with drug abuse and that every 19 minutes an American dies from substance abuse. Instead of focusing our attention on Mexico and the suppliers, we need to devote more to providing resources.

Investments in education could go a long way in preventing drug abuse for at risk adolescents. A report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that young people in general who have trouble at home or have friends and family who abuse drugs are more likely to abuse substances. Research based programs that are designed for youth who have already started using drugs and selective programs for groups of children who have specific circumstances are a key to stopping the next generation from abusing drugs. The National Institute of Health has proven that further specializing education to adolescents who are at risk can lower the percentage that go on to abuse substances.
Mass incarceration by the American government has produced no results. Instead we should focus on implementing programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). LEAD is a pre-arrest program which was implemented in Ithaca, New York. It focuses on prevention, treatment and harm reduction in communities. An evaluation of the program found “reductions in heroin use and overdose deaths, more stable housing outcomes and a reduction in arrests and time spent in jail for those actively engaged in intensive case management programs.” Because of programs like LEAD, fewer families cycle in and out of prison. Instead of just getting arrested for possession of drugs, programs like this one address the root problems that cause the substance abuse.

Supporters of the “War on Drugs” have a valid concern by thinking that ceasing all operations against Mexican drug cartels will result in them running wild. The problem is that they’re already moving as they please. Despite America’s best attempts at stopping them, their ability to traffic in the billions and create violence has been unstoppable. A report on the death toll from the Mexican government suggests that 200,000 related deaths have occurred in the past twelve years.

I believe the way to cripple these suppliers is to stop fighting the “War on Drugs” against external enemies and to start fighting our internal ones. Investing the same resources that we’ve invested in the past four decades on fighting drug cartels should be invested in finding reasons why people turn to drugs as well as finding solutions to these problems.

It is undoubtedly a good thing Guzmán is standing trial for the wrongs he’s committed. A ruthless criminal is off the streets. However, we can’t assume that capturing someone like him is going to completely hurt the drug trade. If we truly want justice to the “War on Drugs,” we need to take a look at ourselves and focus on smarter solutions that treat the roots of the problem.

You can listen to your problematic fave

We stream their music, attend their concerts and hold them to an immortal standard. What they wear, the things they say and their subtlest actions are analyzed in extreme depth. To meet one’s idol would be a distinct honor to a fan. Artists are loved by their fans until they mess up of course. When we hear our favorite artist say or do something we don’t agree with, we’re ultimately left in a complex situation. Of course we still love the music they made, but it becomes a moral dilemma. Do we keep listening to the music we love? Is it right to? Should the problematic artist be “cancelled” from our lives?

“Cancelling” artists who have committed wrongdoings could never be a good thing. Several factors play into this. For one, we should consider that their mistakes are in the public eye, while ours aren’t. It is also important to learn to separate the art from the artist. In addition, when the mistake or wrongdoing is a legal matter, we should understand that it is the law’s responsibility to hold them accountable, not the fan’s.

Artists have millions of followers. Headlines about them spread on the news constantly. Even their late night food runs are photographed. Every slip up is caught and gossiped about by the rest of the world. If we were all observed to the same degree, the “skeletons in our closet,” would probably be revealed too. Take Justin Bieber for example. Back in January 2014 he was arrested for a DUI and drag racing. Nine days later a petition to deport him back to Canada had reached 100,000 signatures. Some of the signatures may have been as a joke, some may have been from serious distaste for what he had done. He was only 19 when this happened. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “teenagers drive intoxicated 2.4 million times each month.” The report also states that 1 in 5 of these drivers will get in fatal crashes. It’s common knowledge that driving under the influence can cause harm to others, yet these teens weren’t treated with the same severity as Bieber, despite doing the same thing and being the same age. Whether the petition was serious or not, it says something about people’s reactions to celebrities’ mistakes. Artists like Bieber make mistakes just like their fans, but theirs are deeply exaggerated and they shouldn’t be a victim of our “cancelled” culture because of that.

Separating the artist from the musical product they release is key. Music is a listening experience that transcends past a person’s personal feelings toward an artist. Many of the greatest artists of all time have done dark things, but the effect they had on our culture cannot be forgotten. Artists are oftentimes disassociated from their legacies with good reason because their personal life isn’t always relevant to their actual art. I can stare at a painting like “Bacchus” by Caravaggio all day and appreciate the genius of it. Knowing that Caravaggio was aggressive, ill-tempered and killed a man doesn’t affect my view of his painting, and it shouldn’t. It’s no different than someone like Kanye West today. West transformed hip hop’s mainstream music with his soulful samples and insightful raps. He may say and do things people don’t agree with, but you can’t deny his art. Consuming art is understanding the culture it influenced. In addition, some may argue that by listening to an artist’s song you’re making them wealthier and just increasing their influence. But in today’s modern world, streaming an artist’s music doesn’t make them wealthy. Spotify reports that they pay “about $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream to the holder of music rights. And the “holder” can be split among the record label, producers, artists and songwriters. In short, streaming is a volume game.” Listening to your favorite artist’s music doesn’t mean you’re supporting them economically, so why stop listening to them if you enjoy their art?

Lastly, who gave us the responsibility of holding artists accountable anyway? I know we all want to be junior detectives, but if the artist has done something criminal then we should count on the law. Just like we would let the police handle an ordinary citizen who’s committed a crime, the same should be done for artists. The FBI reports a violent crime occurs every 25 seconds. We hear statistics like this every day and go on with our days with little to no reaction. But if Bieber drives home drunk, the reaction is that he should be deported and “cancelled.” Just because their lives are in the public eye, and we are their consumers, doesn’t mean we should be the ones to hold them accountable.

It may be time to cancel “cancelled culture.” Showing sympathy and understanding that your favorite idol is only human will ease the burden for you. Artists oftentimes make the same mistakes we do and should be dealt with in the same manner an average person would be. So don’t stop listening to your favorite songs just because the person who made it is morally questionable. We’re smart listeners who can analyze what we see, not palpitating irrational sensors.