Ryan Pitkin


“Last Tuesday Concert” night unwelcoming for Holy Ghost Tent Revival

Folk act Holy Ghost Tent Revival performing in Norm's October 25, 2011. Photo / Ryan Pitkin

As I settled into my table at After Hours on the night of Oct. 25, 2011 to see a band play that I had seen many times before in much bigger venues, only one thought was going through my mind, “This isn’t right.”

The band was Holy Ghost Tent Revival (HGTR), a folk rock band that plays a genre-bending mix of bluegrass and the popular rock that has made bands like The Avett Brothers and Old Crowe Medicine Show so popular. The best way I have heard it described is “newgrass.”

HGTR, hailing from Greensboro, has made quite a name for themselves over the last few years with their mix of banjos, a trombone and electric guitars. I have seen them twice in NoDa over the past year alone and whether they were playing at The Evening Muse or Neighbor Theatre, the house was packed. The word was buzzing around the neighborhood for at least a week before they showed. This is what was so unsettling as I sat down in After Hours that night as one of the only 20 or so people in the room. It soon became clear that nobody else was coming.

This problem started to bother me even before the day of the concert. Whether or not you’ve ever heard of this band, I am willing to bet this is the first you’ve heard of the on-campus “Last Tuesday Concert.” Where was the promotion? The first flyer I saw for this concert was when I went to the bathroom in After Hours during the show. A flyer stared me in the face, struggling to hold on to the wall but doomed to inevitably fall into the urinal I was using. A search of the UNC Charlotte website for a mention of the concert tells students to attend a cool night of folk and bluegrass on the West Quad “as we welcome Holy Ghost Tent Revival!”

“Welcomed” was hardly the way HGTR guitarist and lead vocalist Stephen Murray described the way he felt about the concert over the phone the next day as his band headed for West Virginia.

“We have played college shows with a lot of hype and great turnouts before and that’s what you hope for when you show up at a show like that,” he said. As far as the preceding night’s show? “Yeah, you definitely hope to play less of those.”

Whether or not you care about this particular band or bluegrass rock music in general, does anyone really want to attend a college that sends any popular music act away making comments like that?

The set up in After Hours doomed the gig from the beginning as the worst venues I’ve come across in a long time. The dizzying, rainbow-colored disco lights over a checkerboard dance floor made it feel like I was chaperoning a middle school dance instead of waiting for a band to play.

There were two opening acts. The first was a respectable folk singer who travels with the group and the second was a local band consisting of three young teenagers, including an overexcited, banjo-playing lead vocalist and a small female guitarist with a show-stealing voice, destined for some sort of future in music.

Between each set the default music came blasting back on. It was inescapably ill-fitting pop music that belonged as far from a show like this as it could get. The crowd, what totaled to be a maximum of 30 people, was made up mostly of parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents of the opening act.

“Besides the fact that basically nobody showed up and there was horrible pop music blasting at every stop, I would say it was a pretty good practice,” said Murray. From a selfish standpoint, that stood well with me. As someone who has seen HGTR in crowded venues involving lots of drinking and dancing, it’s not so bad to sit back and watch a really good band experiment and play songs that they admittedly have hardly even played together at all yet.

The set lasted a little over an hour and included some of their old songs but also some new tracks such as “Po’ Jenny,” a song that was written two days before the show, and “Walk You Home” which makes you want to swing-dance by starting with a riff reminiscent of Beach Boys then moves faster into a ska-like song.

Throughout the show the guys of HGTR were good sports about the low turnout. As they tuned for their set a couple of them broke into jigs and played guitar along to an earsplitting Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha collaboration that was blasting over the speakers. As uninspiring as the night was, Murray hasn’t given up on UNC Charlotte.

“We only found out [the day of the concert] that it was switched indoors. We sometimes have someone involved with promotion ahead of us before shows like that. We need to maybe find a way to do that and find a better place to play next time we are at UNCC,” said Murray.

My question is, how many times can this happen before bands start giving up on our campus?

Blogger raises money for the Special Olympics

My Super Senior Year blog writer Dana Boone will run a kissing booth Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in the College of Education courtyard to raise money for the Special Olympics.

The booth will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and again from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and  Sigma Alpha Epsilon member Tyler Johnson will accompany Boone in the booth.  Kisses will be sold for $1 each.

For the more germaphobic participants and to add a sweet touch for those who follow though, Hershey’s Kisses will be handed out from the booth also, said Boone.

The money will go towards the goal of $1,000 that Boone needs in order to accomplish number 16 of the 25 activities listed on her blog’s bucket list. Instead of bungee jumping, which was the original plan, Boone will be participating in Over the Edge, repelling down the side of The VUE Charlotte, a 51-story building in uptown Charlotte.

Over the Edge is a charity that helps the Special Olympics by offering anyone who donates at least $1,000 the opportunity to repel from the 43rd story of the building to the eighth.

Boone is scared of heights, which makes her hopeful yet anxious about making it to the $1,000 mark. “I had a panic attack and passed out in the second floor of a lighthouse one time. I didn’t make it any further than that,” she said.

To donate to Boone’s cause, go to her Firstgiving website or the My Super Senior Year blog.

Urban Institute helps CMS in search for superintendent

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (UI) will now help with the research portion of CMS’s search for a new superintendent.

The UI, a public policy research center whose offices are in Colvard South, will be putting together online surveys to help CMS understand the traits and characteristics that people are looking for in a new superintendent. According to Jeff Michael, UI’s director, that means hearing from people who have no connection to CMS as well as hearing from parents, students, teachers and staff.

The surveys will be made available separately, although they will contain the same questions. The first round of surveys, to be made available in late October 2011, will be a targeted round of surveys that will be sent through e-bulletins to those who have a stake in CMS, such as those who are employed by the system or have a child attending one of the schools. “We will be encouraging those people that are targeted to take part in the survey because they are involved with CMS,” said Michael.

The second survey will be made available to the general public in November, 2011. It will be kept open for two weeks and include anyone who wants to have their opinion put into consideration. “Of course, the general public includes people who are involved with CMS,” said Michael. “And some of those people will choose to participate this way, but everyone will have a say at some point.”

The UI will be compiling results in terms of demographic profiles depending on where they live, their connection to CMS, race, age, income and other characteristics. “This will be provide the CMS board with a good representative look at what people are looking for in the next superintendent,” said Michael.

Michael is hoping to have the preliminary results ready in the form of a PowerPoint presentation by the time the board is holding public forums in late November, 2011. “The results will be more polished in December, but this presentation should be able to do a good job of informing those forums,” said Michael.

These forums were the starting point for UNC Charlotte’s involvement with CMS’s search for a superintendent. CMS board member Richard McElrath approached UNC Charlotte professor Roslyn Mickelson, someone he has worked with on educational issues for years, several weeks ago asking if she and others from UNC Charlotte could help organize community forums in which the public could give feedback. According to Mickelson, as she attempted to make that happen she learned that Chancellor Philip Dubois had already told CMS board chairman Eric Davis that UNC Charlotte would not be able to run the forums.

A Charlotte Observer article reported that the talks about helping with public feedback broke down due to a misunderstanding about the costs. The article stated that McElrath was hoping to get free aid from the university but talks with the chancellor and the UI proved that this would not be the case. A similar study that was done for the public library by the UI cost the library $225,000.

Michael said that timing was the reason UI would not be able to help with the public forums. “We, led by Beth Hardin, UNC Charlotte Vice President of Business Affairs, all acknowledged that with the very tight time frame that they were under, we just did not have the capacity to help put on those public forums,” he said.

“It is the type of work that we do on topics and issues like this,” said Michael. “In addition to our research, we often do facilitate public forums, but in this tight timeline we just didn’t feel we could do that.”

As for now, Michael and the rest of UI are focused on developing a public marketing strategy to get the word out about their surveys being available online. The UI will be looking to partner with a number of agencies in town that have an interest in this issue. These agencies will include the Charlotte Chamber, a non-profit organization made up of Charlotte business leaders, and Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education (Meck Ed), another area non-profit organization dedicated to helping CMS students be successful.

Michael, the father of a first grade student in the CMS system, also hopes to use press releases, newspaper articles and hopefully an op-ed article to help get the word out about the survey so that the broadest sample possible can be utilized to help inform the public forums that CMS are still aiming to hold in November, 2011.

Mickelson will still be among the attendees at the forums. “I still have a good relationship with McElrath and I very much look forward to participating in the forums as a guest rather than as an organizer,” she said.

Niner Nation Gold kicks off basketball season

Photo / Niner Nation Gold

Niner Nation Gold (NNG), one of the largest student groups on campus, will throw a pizza party to celebrate the new basketball season on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center (SAC).

NNG is an athletic spirit group that supports all of the teams on campus, whether it is volleyball or soccer, but basketball remains the major attraction, according to Marie Davis, president of NNG. The annual event is a way to reward students who have recently signed up, since the beginning of the year is when most new students sign up.

During the “pre-pizza party,” members will be able to mingle with the athletic director and the men’s and women’s basketball coaches. “The coaches will answer questions and let the group know if there are any big games they really want our support at,” said Davis. This year some players will also be showing up to speak or just to hang out with members.

In addition to meeting and becoming familiar with certain members of the basketball teams, the pizza party will also be a great opportunity for members to meet and hang out with the rest of NNG, said Davis. This will also be the time when members pick up their t-shirt that comes free with signing up, which costs $20 and can be done online.

Once the food is finished, NGG members will be let into Basketball Madness before anyone else in order to get the best seats. Basketball Madness is an annual event in which fans get to meet the teams and there is a Slam Dunk contest in Halton Arena.

This year’s event also includes the unveiling of a new look for Norm the Niner and the designs for an official fan t-shirt for the 2011-2012 season. Fans will vote for their favorite shirt and the winning design will be available around the home opener on Nov. 11, 2011.

While excitement builds around the basketball season, some members of NNG have been looking a little further ahead. A few students who are involved in NNG have been working on some preliminary plans with the Student Ticketing Committee to figure out how student tickets and seating for the 2013 football season will work.

“We want to get people excited who will stick around and build some tradition,” said Davis. “We are trying to create traditions now that will carry over to when football starts.”

The basketball season gives them an opportunity to do just that, said Davis. NNG is working on putting together a big basketball kickoff in front of Halton Arena sometime around the home opener that will give students and members more of a tailgate feel.

“There will be outdoor games and activities and organizations for people who are excited for the basketball season,” she said. “It will also get them to enjoy the time spent waiting outside for tickets and start building that culture outdoors that can be a fun environment for everyone”

Another goal of NNG is to try to build up support for the sports that don’t get as much attention from the entire student body. The coaches of these teams are always appreciative of these efforts, said Davis. Last year, when members camped out all night before a women’s basketball game, they were woken by head coach Karen Aston, who brought them coffee and donuts.

The NNG has also worked this year to promote the teams that haven’t been seeing the turnout they would like to. They have handed out free t-shirts at the entrance of a volleyball game and even threw an ice cream social before a women’s soccer game.

Attending these games does more than bolster support for those who need it most. The NNG takes advantage of the loyalty point system that effects what seats a student gets when he or she picks up basketball tickets.

When a student attends any event, they are rewarded one loyalty point. The more points a student has, the better their seats are for the basketball games they attend in the future. When someone signs up for NNG, they receive eight points. “NNG members always have a step up for getting the best seats for the biggest games in Halton Arena,” said Davis.

UNC system vice president for research Steve Leath leaves for Iowa State University

Photo / Steve Leath

Steve Leath, the vice president for research for the UNC system, is leaving his position to become the 15th president of Iowa State University (ISU) on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012.

Leath, 54, was announced as the new president in Ames, Iowa on Sept. 27, 2011. The only other finalist was Kumble Subbaswamy, a University of Kentucky provost. Leath will be taking over for the 14th President of ISU, Gregory Geoffrey, who retired earlier in 2011. According to reports, Leath will be making an annual salary of $440,000 in his new position.

Leath helped change the way research is done in our state with his work on REACH NC, which stands for Research, Engagement, and Capabilities of North Carolina, said Leslie Boney, Vice President for International Community and Economic Engagement for the UNC system. “[REACH NC] is a research expertise portal that brings the expertise of faculty into hands of professionals and nonprofessionals who can put it to use.”

According to its website, REACH NC is “a web portal that enables users to find experts and assets within North Carolina higher education and research institutions. It is the first comprehensive system that capitalizes on emerging technologies, efficient processes, and strategic relationships to provide a near real-time view of North Carolina assets and capabilities.”

Boney, who worked with Leath for four years and helped him with the REACH NC project, said that Leath “is the vision of research” for the North Carolina system. “He sees research as something that is interdisciplinary and institutional.”

Anita Watkins, vice president for government relations for the UNC system, worked with Leath for three years and was equally impressed with his work on REACH NC, as well as other work he did. “REACH NC is a really cool project. It brings all of our talent together into one database. It will have a profound effect on how campuses in our system do research.”

Although Leath’s work is lab-oriented and research driven, the first characteristic his friends talk about in regards to working with him is his personality. “He is an exceptionally personable guy,” said Boney. “There was never a meeting we went into together that I felt as if he wouldn’t be able to talk to every person in the room.”

Watkins also defined Leath as a great communicator. “Anytime there is an issue that the legislature or I need to know something about, he is the first one at my door,” she said.

“He really is driven by success and creativity. He is dedicated to helping campuses formulate research practices that help them bring their research to the private sector, wherever it is needed.”

Leath has played a major role in developing the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), a research hub that focuses on health, nutrition and agriculture. The NCRC works hand-in-hand with the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI), a charity that funds groundbreaking research at the 350-acre Kannapolis biotech research campus.

Leath has been involved with and served as a board member at the DHMRI, over which he served as president until recently, since its inception. The public-private partnership between NCRC and DHMRI was created by David Murdock, chairman of Dole Food Co. New President James Oblinger, former chancellor of N.C. State University, took over day-to-day operations in mid-September.

Watkins said that although she is very sad to see him go, she is excited for him in his new role. “I think it is a huge opportunity for Steve, but I think it is a really huge opportunity for [ISU] to have Steve and [his wife] Janet there as leaders on campus.”

History professor receives award

The Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) awarded Cheryl D. Hicks, a UNC Charlotte history professor, the Letitia Woods Brown Book Award for her book “Talk With You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice and Reform in New York, 1890-1935.”

ABWH is a group that Hicks said did not only influence her but mentored her. The award recognizes “innovative, well-researched and insightful scholarship (about or by an Africana woman) that enhances the growing corpus of Africana women’s historiography,” according to the ABWH website.

“[The ABWH’s] scholarship has been a model for me, through my entire process from being a grad student, to becoming an assistant professor, to my position now as associate professor,” said Hicks. “I am able to do my work because of their groundbreaking scholarship, so to have them recognize my work is very important and very special to me.”

Although Hicks was aware that the UNC Press, which published the book, had submitted the work for consideration for some awards when they published it in 2010, she was informed that she won the prize by ABWH at a luncheon Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. The luncheon was held just before the major annual convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), where the ABWH was founded in 1977.

In the acknowledgements section of the book, Hicks recalls that joining UNC Charlotte’s history department in 2007 “provided a wonderfully collegial environment for me as I completed manuscript revisions.” She is still thankful that her coworkers were so encouraging, even helping read over portions she wanted to clear up. “The department is full of scholar teachers that understood the importance of completing your first book,” she said.

In her first book, Hicks explored the objects, mostly the black female objects, of urban reform at the turn of the century, she said. “Many historians have written about the middle class activists and what they were trying to do for the working class. I am interested in what the working class and working poor were thinking at this time.”

The book is divided into three sections: African American Urban Life and the Multiple Meanings of Protection in the City, Urban Reform and Criminal Justice and Rehabilitation and Respectability and Race. Each section tells the stories of working-class women who find themselves caught up in a system that doesn’t care for their needs.

Hicks focused on a reformatory and a prison, two places where women who had fallen through the cracks often ended up, she said. She received a fellowship at the New York State Archives in Albany, N.Y. and began to go over reformatory records case by case. “There were about 424 case files for the one reformatory that I look at. That’s when I started to pull the stories together,” she said.

Looking at prison files helped Hicks get a look from the perspective of an older group of women. “Most felons were in their mid-twenties and older, so I got a broad range of perspective of how women experienced the urban north and the real challenges they faced,” she said.

The true importance of the book lies in these challenges, said Hicks. “Many reformers saw these single, unprotected women in trouble and decided that they were the problems that needed to be fixed. I was more interested in the problems that these women experienced in the city.”

These challenges, that range from being physically assaulted by police to facing down a mother’s curfew on the night of a dance, become clear in the correspondence to and from the families of women incarcerated in prison or institutionalized in reformatories. While reading the letters of her subjects, the voice of these women began to take shape, said Hicks.

“The idea that the working class and the working poor [of that time period] don’t have a voice that’s legitimate and don’t have a voice that needs to be heard is something that I found to be clearly not true,” she said. “Looking at criminal justice records actually gave me a very clear sense of the continued struggle of the working class to improve their lives and particularly the lives of their younger relatives.”

Hicks came across letters that showed families making sacrifices to prepare for a paroled relative to come home or just speaking to incarcerated loved ones. “Parents were sometimes writing in anguish because they saw their attempt to reform their relative through reformatories as a tool to help parent them, but the state simply saw them as incompetent parents.”

One of the strongest letters Hicks came across was not to a loved one but to the superintendent of a reformatory from a woman who was incarcerated there. The letter was written by Lucy Cox, a poor woman who had been arrested for prostitution and whose letters demanding respect from administration were ignored. In her final letter in 1924, Cox writes, “This is business I want to talk with you like a woman.” Hicks saw fit to name the book after this quote.

“Her situation for me was a prime example for how these women could articulate what they were going through without anyone speaking for them,” Hicks said. “She also was demanding of the superintendent ‘Acknowledge my womanhood. Acknowledge that I am not just a person of humanity but also a woman who understands that you can make mistakes but you can learn to move on. Allow me to do that.’”

Hicks is now in the initial stages of her next book project, an exploration of a legal case in 1904 New York that explores interracial intimacy as well as black civil rights, she said. The case, Elias vs. Platt, involves Hannah Elias, who many historians agree was the first black female millionaire and a case in which John R. Platt accused her of blackmailing him for $685,385.

“It’s a story of her life as a poor black woman in Philadelphia and how she became a symbol for New York and the nation as a woman of wealth,” said Hicks. “It’s also a story of racial ambiguousness at the turn of the century.”

Campus Activities Board (CAB) trends with Twitter

The Campus Activites Board (CAB) will be holding a “Tweet Off” in the Student Union Rotunda Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 at 7 p.m.

The event will be a trivia-based game that gets students engaged with CAB through their Twitter page as well as offer different prizes to winners of different Twitter-based activites.

The event is the first of its kind for the student organization, whose 2012 motto is “Trending with CAB,” a play on Twitter terminology. It is one of many ways the group is using social media to connect with more people, said Kendall Allen, CAB’s marketing and publicity director.

“We are implementing a program to help get the CAB name out there,” he said. Recently members have been putting the group’s Twitter page name on t-shirts, banners and posters to push for more involvement from the student body.

CAB will be placing a projector against the small wall of the rotunda that will be hooked up to a laptop. The laptop will be streaming CAB’s Twitter timeline for all to see. Participating students will be signed in to their own accounts on laptops, smartphones, iPads or any device that can access Twitter.

The event is expected to last an hour and a half, with the first 20 to 30 minutes allocated to welcoming participants, introducing the event, eating and mingling with one another, according to a marketing and publicity form.

After people are signed up, three separate games will be played that all revolve around the use of Twitter and will require participants to be engaged with CAB’s page on the website. “Usually, our Twitter feed is public, but during the game it will be made private,” said Michael Griswold, a graduate assistant helping conduct the event. This will ensure that any students who play the game must be Twitter users and follow CAB’s feed, which is @CABUNCCharlotte.

The first game is old-school trivia with an up-to-date technological twist. CAB members, or cabbies, will be presenting participants with 15 questions. Based on a point system that will be displayed on a dry erase board near the projection screen, the winners will be chosen based on who answers the most questions correctly through Twitter the fastest.

The second game will be based solely on speed. Players will be given a CAB-related word or phrase and told to spell it backwards. The first three accounts to show up on CAB’s consistently-refreshed timeline with the correctly spelled phrase will be the winners.

The third and final event, called CAB Campaigners, will have students attempting to recruit bystanders to become followers of the CAB Twitter page. The first three participants to convince three bystanders to follow CAB’s feed and mention the participant’s name in a Twitter message will be the winners.

After three games turn out three winners each, the last 15 minutes will be spent giving out prizes to the nine winners. The prize budget for this event was set at $500, and that will be used to buy prize packs from the Student Union’s bookstore, Barnes & Noble, as well as from other sources.

The grand prize will be an iPod touch, yet it is not clear how the winner of the grand prize will be decided, Griswold said. “There will be plenty of smaller packs full of cool stuff.”

This event is part of a larger push to implement technology and social media uses to grow support within CAB, said Allen. Oct. 24, 2011, two days before the “Tweet Off”, a CAB scavenger hunt will begin on their website.

This event, cohosted by Student Niner Media, will involve retrieving clues from the website, following NinerOnline and CAB on Twitter and reading Niner Times. The prizes for the scavenger hunt include an iPad 2 and a basketball signed by the UNC Charlotte men’s basketball team.