Sean Grier

Sean Grier is a writer for the Opinion Section for the 2013-2015 academic year. He is a History major with a Political Science & Secondary Education minor. Sean has been writing for the NinerTimes since his freshman year. He can be contacted at

The other race in 2016

The North Carolina Gubernatorial race is one of the most important races in the Southeast. The impact of this election will be felt for generations to come and yet both of our candidates seem to lacking in very important areas. I support Attorney General, Roy Cooper for Governor, but I do not do so without acknowledging that he has a somewhat credible opponent. Former Representative Kenneth Spaulding comes from a long line of shakers who affected the change they wished to see and it comes to him naturally to see that he is in a state that no longer values education, state employees, private workforce, our transportation needs, access to voting and healthcare and yet,  after all of these issues, you will only find him in predominantly African-American populations, or attacking Cooper for doing his job as mandated by the North Carolina Constitution, mind you Spaulding is a lawyer.

That is not to say that Cooper is my savior of the state party. No, he made grave mistakes and missteps in his judgement regarding the Kerrick trial in Charlotte. Attorneys in the region have stated that a decision like this usually receives scrutiny for months, Cooper’s decision was out within weeks. His most recent barrage against Syrian Refugees is what reduced enthusiasm in young democrats seeking to unseat Governor Pat McCrory. Whoever wrote those lines should be fired but it is also up to us, the people to realize no one made Attorney General, Cooper say it. Cooper needs apologize, meet with our regional activists and young democrats in Charlotte, regroup and focus on the issues that he can actually control; the refugee program is Federal and should remain so.

African, Latino and Asian-Americans feel as though we are put in a stranglehold by established white democrats who run statewide. They know that historically we will fall in line and do what’s best for our party over our interests when the whole point of joining a party was to protect and promote our interests…weird right?

Usually this includes them getting the votes, but not the financial support. What “the establishment” has not realized or felt yet is that we are no longer going to sit by and watch folks within our party spew hatred and misinformation and then continue to vote for you. It is important to realize that in my support of Cooper over Kenneth Spaulding, I am picking the one candidate that I believe can beat Governor McCrory; I am not picking the candidate that I believe aligns most with my issues. To do so after acknowledging potential failure means I have moved to idealism and I am not an idealist. I know that I can follow my heart in my support for the rest of Council of State but when it comes to the gubernatorial election, we cannot afford four more years of McCrory.

In this election education, economy, energy, infrastructure and race have everything to do with the outcome and the social construct of race is unfortunately the most powerful, surely it would be a shame if minority democrats realized that their own brothers and sisters within their party are no different than the racist Republicans they challenge.

There is a swelling of anger within the Democratic Party, essentially minorities are saying enough is enough and without us, you cannot win either. So to those Democrats that do not understand the power and danger of saying too much or remaining silent too long, I say to you, “We are watching you, we are listening and we will vote.” To the Democrats at the top of the ticket, on the SEC, in Goodwin House who are unmoved by this message, know that most elections are won without the dysfunction known as the party anyway so all of you can regroup or go home. Minorities, college students, the elderly, undocumented students and their families, prisoners and the true stakeholders of North Carolina have too much to lose by blindly falling in line behind racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic and intolerable rhetoric. Do better, sit down or go home.


Op-Ed: How and why to repair a broken UNC System

Former U.S. Education Secretary, now-UNC President Margaret Spellings delivers remarks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the opening of the Foundation for Excellence in Education national summit at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Thursday, June 19, 2008. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)
Former U.S. Education Secretary, now-UNC President Margaret Spellings delivers remarks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the opening of the Foundation for Excellence in Education national summit at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Thursday, June 19, 2008. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

Whenever I get a chance, I always talk to folks about systems. Whether we are speaking about college acceptance statistics, standardized tests, the housing market, literacy (financial, educational, mechanical, etc.), K-12 education, government or prison it all boils down to systems. Who is impacted, who benefits, and why? To an extent, we have behaved as if these systems or the people who lead or operate within them are correct in how they do so but I believe in one particular system in North Carolina we can and should do better and it can happen within 4 years.

The University of North Carolina System is broken. The tipping of the iceberg and later melting of the glacier was not Margaret Spellings, her inexperience and compensation. It was the appointments to the Board of Governors after Republicans took over the General Assembly. It was the more than 300 million dollars in cuts from the UNC System over the last three budgets; the melting of the glazier and sudden flood that is our education system was indeed the unethical and immoral firing of President Tom Ross, the former budget director Karl Rove and the fact that appointments will be up in a year and we need new leadership on the Board of Governors.

We need to elect Democrats and Republicans to the General Assembly who will take these concerns seriously. The UNC Board of Governors and individual universities Board of Trustees are becoming the new North Carolina Department of Transportation where the highest or most consistent donor receives an appointment. No longer are these appointments weighed with résumés and records but with check books and Super Political Action Committees. Governor McCrory, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have successfully sold the soul of the Great North State and it’s time to buy it back. We will buy back this state through our votes; it is the one currency that all North Carolinians and most young people refuse to spend.

Our new General Assembly must file a bill to restructure the UNC System. The demands are simple and realistic and will keep North Carolina’s crown jewel in the possession of actual North Carolinians. This bill must:

  • Create a new makeup of the Board of Governors, specifically a thirty (30) member board made up of six (6) appointments from the North Carolina House, six (6) appointments from the North Carolina Senate.
  • One (1) appointment from the Speaker of the House, one (1) appointment for the House Minority Leader, one (1) appointment for the Senate Pro Tempore, one (1) appointment for Senate Minority Leader.
  • Two (2) appointments by the Governor of North Carolina. One (1) each for the remainder of the Council of State. One (1) appointment by the President of the Community College System, two (2) for the President of the UNC Association of Student Governments (ASG).
  • The General Assembly should create staggered terms between the appointments of each house of the general assembly and split the staggered terms of the Council of State. All appointments consist of four (4) year terms with no more than two terms served consecutively.
  • Except in the case of the two (2) appointments by the President of the UNC Associate of Student Governments (ASG), the appointments should consist of two year terms with no more than two terms served consecutively.
  • Of the 30 appointments at least three (3) from each house of the General Assembly,  two (2) from the Governor, and both appointments from the President of the UNC Association of Student Governments must live in North Carolina and have graduated from a UNC System School. Distance Education, Associate Degrees and Certificates do not qualify.

These provisions will place the “University of North Carolina” back into the UNC System. Furthermore, it puts more power into the hands of regional, elected and appointed stakeholders of North Carolina. It is essential that the President of the Association of Student Governments receive two appointments because that President was elected by the student body presidents of the each individual campus.

The 16/11 appointment ratio between the legislature and executive branch is important because of the length of those elected terms and because it holds these elected officials more accountable while still allowing a Governor and Council of State to govern as she or he sees fit without taking into consideration the “politics” of an appointment.

This only solves half of the problem that is the UNC System. The General Assembly must reform all individual UNC System Schools Board of Trustees as well and shift the power from political appointments to faculty, staff and student stakeholders.

Our new General Assembly must file a bill to restructure the Board of Trustees at each university. The demands are simple and realistic and will keep North Carolina’s crown jewel in the possession of actual North Carolinians. This bill must:

  • Create a new makeup of the Board of Trustees, specifically a thirty (30) member board made up of six (6) appointments from the North Carolina House, six (6) appointments from the North Carolina Senate.
  • Two (2) appointments from the House Representative representing the district in which the University sit, two (2) appointments from the Senator representing the district in which the University sits.
  • Six (6) appointments by the Governor of North Carolina. One (1) by the Mayor of the City in which the University sits, one (1) for the Chairman of the County Commission of the county in which the university sits, two (2) for the Student Body President of the campus and Four (4) for the Student Government Association Senate.
  • The General Assembly should create staggered terms between the appointments of each house of the general assembly. All appointments consist of 4 year terms with no more than two terms served consecutively.
  • Except in the Case of the Student Body President of the campus, those appointments should consist of 1 year terms with no more than two terms served consecutively.
  • Except in the case of the Mayor and Chairman, those appointments should consist of 2 year terms with no more than two terms served consecutively.
  • Of the 30 appointments at least three (3) from each house of the General Assembly,  two (2) from the Governor, and all appointments from the Student Body President must live in North Carolina and have graduated that individual UNC School.
  • Citizens of North Carolina who have graduated from multiple programs at more than one UNC System School may not serve more than two terms in the aggregate and must wait four (4) years before being eligible for appointment at another UNC System Schools Board of Trustees. Distance Education, Associate Degrees and Certificates programs do not qualify.

Reforming each UNC Schools Board of Trustees puts the power back in the hands of the Student Government Association and gives them more say over tuition and fees, capital projects and a direct line to lobby the city, county, and general assembly on their own behalf. The goal of the university should be to incubate leaders, thinkers and shakers of thought and we must give students the space, access and power to do so. The General Assembly has a lot of work to do. They must require that all tuition and fee increases be put to a vote by the combined Board of Trustees and Student Senate in order reduce the burden on students to make them feel like they are actually stakeholders at their universities, not just a goldmine.

There are more than 230,000 students enrolled in the UNC System and no one knows that we as students exist, our voices are muffled, our backs are laden with debt, our Student Government Associations and advisory boards are weak and our system is corrupt from the legislation that created the system to the closed session meetings that affect us. We demand change, let’s make the elections of 2016 the starting point.

All Politics is Local… Especially in 2016

Hector Casanova illustration of the Democrat donkey fighting it out with the Republican elephant. (The Kansas City Star/MCT)
Hector Casanova illustration of the Democrat donkey fighting it out with the Republican elephant. (The Kansas City Star/MCT)

Democrats need to understand something very important: That no matter your politics, your conservative, liberal or progressive ideals, you are your own worst enemy. Already our party is blessed with a two edged sword. Our make up as a heterogeneous party provides sound benefits to a party that could not exist with only middle class white families but it also provides blatant challenges in terms of priorities, movements and fundraising. It is also important that Democrats understand the processes by which our government forms, functions and in some cases how we lose the ability to affect change in the formation process.

It does not matter if you support Secretary Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders or Governor Martin O’Malley; what matters is that after the dust settles on March 15 in North Carolina that we can unite successfully and quickly because we can all agree that no one in the Republican field is worthy of our vote or capable to lead our nation towards the values that most Americans desire. Secretary Clinton has a trust issue and flip-flops on a lot of issues since 2008, most recently she has also backed Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel who is accused of ignoring evidence of a horrific murder of a teenager by his police department.

Senator Sanders is positioned as a natural civil rights guy who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. What else did you do besides walk down a street, Senator? He was never met with water hoses or attack dogs… Most recently Senator Sanders filed several relevant and progressive bills aligned specifically with his campaign and a fundraising email, yet, he has been a progressive for his whole career. Why did it take an election strategy to file common sense legislation?

Governor O’Malley knows that he is primed for a cabinet position and so he is waltzing around Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders as gracefully as a white man without rhythm can but he also has a problem; prosecutions for petty crimes went up under his governorship, minority populations within the state prisons also increased drastically under his leadership and yet he states unequivocally, “Black Lives Matter!”

Democrats must also realize that the Presidential election, controlled mainly by the Electoral College, is not what we should be focusing on. Democrats need to look at the bigger picture. Mecklenburg County Democratic Party (MCDP) Chairman, Matt Newton, is attempting to recruit talent in our outlying townships and cities and it has proven difficult to find uniquely qualified talent. 3 Vice-Chair of MCDP, Lula Dualeh has stated multiple times, “We must stop looking at our jobs in silos, elected terms and election cycles and start looking at the bigger picture – a ten year plan will do it.” While this young activist insists that young Democrats are primed and ready to truly effect change in the communities in which we live, she also believes, “Young people must be given the resources and tools to succeed and that definitely includes the wisdom and guidance of our senior Democrats.”

The talent is currently here in Mecklenburg, Wake, and Buncombe. But what about in all 50 counties, how can we mobilize without young people becoming the “establishment”? Democrats must understand that the best thing we can hope for while imagining that our popular vote is more important than the  Electoral College is that we are sending a message that elections have consequences including internal politics, hatred and the constant war that is Clinton vs. Sanders.

The next President of the United States assuming they will win a second term could potentially nominate two (2) Supreme Court Justices, three (3) Federal Election Commissioners, three (3) Securities and Exchange Commissioners, thirty-five (35) judgeships designated as Judicial Emergencies, five (5) appointments to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, three of which will occur in 2019 and the list goes on. Elections have consequences and we must remain vigilant in recognizing that the war does not need to continue internally which is why I canvass and phone bank for Senator Sanders and I do the same for Secretary Clinton because no matter who wins that March 15th primary, there is something greater happening and that is the art of politics and within that art is knowing when and how to do better. Democrats let’s do better by working smarter, not harder, identifying young people and training them, invite them to events, teach them effective ways to canvass and phone bank, bring them to your auxiliary meetings and do it together as a unified and intelligently diverse team. Together we can complete a democratic sweep, IF we stop being our own worst enemy.

OP-ED: Time to mobilize for Democratic ‘Carolina Comeback’

North Carolina Democrats are once again at decision time, and you have some choices: Cry and complain about the actions of Republicans or mobilize and do something about it.

Too many folks are depending on the state party and county parties to actually do their jobs; it is laughable actually. If you want the job done right, do it yourself and allow the party to support your mission. There are folks working very hard in the North Carolina Democratic Party and even the Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake County Democratic Party’s but each of those organizations has their own politics that continue to hamper the progress of North Carolinians who have seen taxes, fees and tuition increase. North Carolina’s Democrats literally cannot afford to sit at home for the rest of this calendar year or in March.

Voter education is the most important task before candidates, volunteers and party leaders. Voters must present a valid form of identification AND vote at the correct precinct. College students are fighting for their right to safe access to a polling location and should these students and stakeholders fail, it will be up to the community that surrounds them to provide carpools, vans and if necessary buses to polling locations. Young Democrats across the state need to take advantage of their age and access, put on some running shoes and go canvass every Saturday starting in January, making it their mission to register 10 people a day. Think of the impact of the “small things.” Create email and phone lists of local, regional and statewide community leaders, activists and officials and use them to promote Democratic values, candidates and where necessary slates.

Contrary to popular but ignorant belief, the Democratic Party should not shoot for unification; division is great so long as everyone divided unites after March 15. There are a lot of candidates running statewide. These Council of State and U.S. Senate candidates must help the House and Senate candidates running for district seats. Volunteer your team to phone bank once a week on their behalf, send some of your campaign team to precinct meetings, town hall meetings, Home Owners Association meetings, National Night Outs, parades, etc. We cannot afford to act as silos any longer. Candidates running in safe seats with little competition should make it their mission to support neighboring candidates. We all know who these “safe” politicians are; let us hope this upcoming election makes them better public servants.

College Democrats across this state are mobilizing and effecting change in the communities in which they wish to live and thrive, help us help the state. Statistically college students want to vote but are not registered, lack access to transportation or do not know their correct polling site. Already under the leadership of President McCollom, the UNC Charlotte College Democrats have conducted phone banking, registered voters and are planning for campus wide voter education. While not as active as other college chapters, I believe our chapter has the most potential due to campus size, location, resources and interest, and it would serve statewide candidates to know that this campus votes overwhelmingly Democratic, so their support will only bolster their potential success.  

The Republican leadership in the General Assembly talks about the “Carolina Comeback” and Governor McCrory touts his “Nothing Compares” slogan everywhere he goes. Let us show them what a real “Carolina Comeback” looks like because nothing compares to a Democratic sweep in March 2016 and November 2016. Let’s take our state back one, vote, precinct, county and district at a time.

Linda Coleman, running as the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor in 2016.
Linda Coleman, running as the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor in 2016.
Chris Rey, Democratic candidate for United States Senate in 2016.
Chris Rey, Democratic candidate for United States Senate in 2016.
Attorney General and North Carolina Democratic candidate for Governor in 2016.
Attorney General and North Carolina Democratic candidate for Governor in 2016. 

*Photos retrieved from campaign websites.

Phenomenal American women of our time

Laverne Cox

66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Cox is a pioneer for the transgender movement and has led the way as a Trans woman of color in the extremely popular show, “Orange Is The New Black.” An awardwinning diva, we predict that the future is bright for her. The transgender community has gained momentum over the last 18 months.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter


She’s Beyoncé. She dropped an album without promotion and it broke every record to date. She performed for the United Nations and partnered with The White House for the “Let’s Move Campaign.” She is a feminist and employs an all female band. Her portfolio is constantly changing the game and pushing the envelope for women in all industries.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court and justices

Justice Ginsburg because of her tireless efforts on behalf of everyday American citizens. Her latest term on the country’s highest court gained her increased notoriety with our age group. Ginsburg was the second woman on the court and so far, the most vocal. She wrote a searing dissent in the Hobby Lobby and Civil Rights Act of 1965 cases. Ginsburg stated, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Elizabeth Warren

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC

Congress wrote Elizabeth off as an appointee for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; she took up arms in Massachusetts to become the Commonwealth’s next United States Senator. Warren is fighting for lower student loan interest rates, increased access to home loans and modifications and most importantly, healthcare and access. Warren is an obvious choice for this list because of her dedication to the middle class and working families. She supports a minimum wage increase and increased regulations in the banking, housing and education sectors.

Sonia Sotomayor


The first Latin-American and third female Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, has blazed the road for not only young Latin-American children but also young girls everywhere. Sotomayor brings to the court an all too common testimony. She was raised partially on government assistance and understands the role affirmative action can have on a minority’s life. Sotomayor is the epitome of what good government looks like. In the last term Sotomayor stated, “The Government must be allowed to handle the basic tasks of public administration in a manner that comports with common sense.”

Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling, provided America with insight into the vast array of cultures in the United States. By not taking a “Melting Pot” approach, Ling focuses on individuals, religions and institutions in this country that impact Americans everyday. Ling’s, “Our America”  and her “This Is Life with Lisa Ling” have  placed spotlights on marginalized  communities. Ling represents what is great about America: diversity.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has revitalized the Office of the First Lady. Her campaigns have reached into the homes of essentially every American family. “Joining Forces” and “Let’s Move” are some of the most successful campaigns by First Ladies in this century. A culmination of international support in conjunction with support from celebrities and the Second Lady, Jill Biden, has propelled these programs forward. Obama helped craft legislation that reduced sodium and added sugars in government funded school lunches and worked with Fortune 500 companies to reduce sugar in candies.

Ellen DeGeneres


Having a bad day? Look up inspirational Ellen DeGeneres segments on YouTube. She has touched our hearts in more ways than one. She has led the effort for one simple thing, love. She stands with the LGBTQ community, using her own story as an openly Lesbian Caucasian woman to help those who need it most. Ellen’s support for the arts,  marginalized communities and those in need surpasses that of every talk show host in America. What makes her different? With Ellen, love wins.

Oprah Winfrey

President Obama honors Medal of Freedom recipients - DC

A former ratings winner for daytime talk show, Oprah Winfrey has trial-blazed the world for women and girls all over the world. From her work in her studio to her school for girls in Africa, Oprah has opened doors for girls everywhere. Her role in “The Color Purple”, “The Butler” and her support of African-Americans provide a voice for many communities. She is influential to many with her work with the United Nations, United States politics and now her production company is furthering her work in the industry. Oprah is phenomenal.

Melissa Harris-Perry


Melissa Harris-Perry is the one woman every American should watch at least twice. Her speeches and television series have provided a platform for truth from the perspective of an African-American women with feminist values. Melissa recently visited UNC Charlotte for her book tour, she spoke frankly of feminism in her talk titled: “Mommy, Mammy and the Maid: Race, Class and Women’s Political Power” Barnes and Nobles has her book in stock.

OP-ED: North Carolina still lags behind on legalizing medical marijuana treatments

One medical marijuana treatment prevents chronic seizures. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
One medical marijuana treatment prevents chronic seizures. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

North Carolina is going through a drought. This drought is not due to the lack of water, like California. It’s due to the lack of political and moral backbone in our politicians.

For the first time in more than 100 years, the same party, albeit different factions of it, control all three branches of government, and yet we are still discussing a concept like the legalization of marijuana. Republicans stormed the political gates demanding change from a mildly strong, but lost Democratic Party. Governor Bev Perdue and her overridden vetoes brought a rise to their pride, power and money.

So here we are in April 2015, more than 3 years after Perdue vacated the Executive Mansion, and the same issues are still here.

Unemployment is low, but only because people have dropped out of the job market. Home starts are picking up but not at optimal levels. The state’s unemployment debt to the federal government has been paid off (good for the Republicans, bad for the unemployed). The UNC System is still under the carving knife of Republicans looking to balance an unsustainable budget. Tax breaks have expanded for the rich while the middle class is squeezed with tax and fee increases on the state, county and city level, not to mention the tuition and fee increases for the UNC System.

As if that was not enough damage, this General Assembly cannot even pass a medical marijuana bill. It died in committee, with that young, middle aged and elderly North Carolinians will suffer, too.

The problem lies not only in the party ideology, if we can call it that, but also in the financing of their campaigns. Industrial and pharmaceutical interests are clouding the arena with dark money, blocking simple bills that could help ordinary folks.

These are the people that can neither afford nor maintain prescription drug treatment because of high costs or the 18 side effects of their drugs, including but not limited to: blood clots, stroke and risk of heart attack or failure. Doesn’t that pill sound great? A medical marijuana brownie sounds better.

The GOP has a consistent amount of cardholders who believe in a small federal government, states’ rights and the governance of citizens with options, yet every time I turn around, the party is passing a bill written and sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council. This party is just as lost as the Democrats of 2010.

As a 21 century party, you cannot continue down this road. Compromise is key. Medical marijuana is a thing – it should be. It causes no harm to you, but we should regulate it like we regulate alcohol and guns – not because it’s as dangerous but because it is as accessible.

The General Assembly needs a new approach and new revenue sources, and marijuana can open doors for research institutions throughout the UNC System, including UNC Charlotte. What it cannot continue to do is actively participate in conversations on what its members think is right or wrong but rather, what is right for this state.

An anonymous mother wrote a powerful yet scary account about her daughter. She stated that she wanted to have an abortion because she knew her child would have birth defects – expensive ones – but regulations prevented that.

Now, her child is 3 years old suffering from chronic seizures. A medical marijuana treatment actually stops her daughter’s seizures. Last summer, North Carolina finally passed a law allowing an exemption for this treatment, so families no longer have to move to other states. But the General Assembly still chooses to ignore numerous other useful medial marijuana treatments.

It should not take a single political party to rectify a bad situation. It should take decent politicians. North Carolinians should not worry because 2016, 2018 and 2020 are fast approaching and the actions of this General Assembly and executive branch are on record, deeply embedded in our memories. Death from afar is manageable but a painful one, at the insistence of a far right ideology, is unforgivable.

11 memes meaningful in the life of a 49er

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All photos by: Ben Coon, Chris Crews, Amanda Duke, Sean Grier and NT File Photos

OP-ED: The ‘melting pot’ theory only serves to sweep minority issues under the rug

I went to Jamestown – Jamestown Elementary School, that is. I sat in Mrs. Orr’s class as a hyperactive student, and it was quite difficult. Third grade was interesting for me, mainly because of the racial tension I experienced, but more interesting in hindsight is how my teacher resolved the incident. She gathered the class to discuss how the United States of America is a great melting pot.

I didn’t know what privilege was, and I had not experienced racial tension until then. Here’s what I now know. The melting pot theory, as it is now known, is a farce – a complete lie. The melting pot, like many ideologies created by the United States, probably ranks as one of the worst ideas in existence.

Essentially, my teacher told us to be nice to one another and to respect each other because we are all American and we all bring something to the table – some more than others. Coincidentally, her mini history lesson forgot to mention the slave trade or how the “European ancestors” even made it to America or any other “how” question a student could come up with. What is important according to the theory is respecting each other in this melting pot, and the fact that we identify as Americans makes us one.

I didn’t hear this theory outside of a history or sociology class until college, when I realized it had blended into the following phrase: “I do not see color.” Apparently, Satan tells nothing but truths because that is the only way that phrase can be true.

To not see that my black is beautiful or that her nose is wide or that your neighbor’s butt does not exist – to remove a portion of someone they cannot rid themselves of, at least naturally, is astonishing.

The concept of the melting pot is a ploy created by those who created every other system we operate in. It makes us believe that we are all one. We are of many, one.  That is how we should treat each other.

It is also difficult and interesting to watch minority groups fighting with each other, especially when history shows us the oppression and violence faced by every minority group in this country was started or propelled by the same majority group – no shade.

My unproven impression is that the melting pot is nothing short of a game played by those in power and those who write the rules. We can look to most movements and see that they only succeeded when we ignored the majority and when factions came together for an ultimate goal.

Today, we can look to the LGBT movement, voting rights and reproductive rights – essentially, the same groups that fought for rights just 60 years ago. Now, we can witness the missteps of these movements. Women, racial minorities and the LGBT community have much to gain by investigating the melting pot theory.

Picture it with me: The majority is controlling this huge pot called the United States. The majority (whoever comprises it) is in charge of not only the ladle but also the fire. Inside of this pot, the majority has dumped every minority, from every race, religion and socioeconomic group.

No longer are we separate heterogeneous groups. Now we are supposed to be one – American? That’s not how this thing called life works; that’s not how any of this works. Instead, we should see this game as they do.

We cannot allow institutions and ways of life to stir our pot; we must stand together for the betterment of not only ourselves but also our country.

In order for the country to move forward after the incidents at Oklahoma University and every other racially insensitive situation, we must understand where the hate and ignorance are rooted and analyze how to move forward. Only then can we “get over it” and “move on.” Until then, it will always be a conversation, and who wants to talk about this for the rest of their lives?

OP-ED: Summer classes are a viable option for catching up or getting ahead on credit hours

We are already in late March and summer is quickly approaching. More exciting than summer itself is the opportunities it brings. For some, that opportunity is summer school, registration for which opened March 23.

Summer school is important for a number of reasons. Summer school provides an opportunity for students to increase their grade point averages, add on a minor without pushing back graduation or maintain a level of academic consistency that they depend on in order to excel in college. Other students may see it as an accounting benefit; it is typical that every fall, tuition or fees, in most cases, both will increase. These levels are determined for a full academic year, which includes summer courses.

In essence, it will always be cheaper to take courses over the summer – up to seven credit hours per session – than it is to just take classes in the fall and spring. Another important option for students is the ability to graduate early and go to graduate school or another level of education.

Advisors provide a student with a roadmap that seems simple, but unfortunately, the economy and reality do not always fall in line with those course projections. These courses are offered both on and off-campus and provide most students with flexibility within their majors and minors.

The Registrar’s Office has encouraged students to be mindful of two policies in particular. The first is the course withdrawal policy, which caps the number of credit hours that can be dropped during your course work at UNC Charlotte, and the other is the tuition surcharge. It is as evil as it sounds.

Effective fall 2010, the tuition surcharge will count courses taken, repeated and failed, courses that were withdrawn after the end of the add/drop period, as well as all transfer credit hours accepted by UNC Charlotte from any UNC System institutions or North Carolina Community Colleges. Students that are subject to the surcharge are earning their first baccalaureate degree in a program that requires no more than 128 credit hours, and the surcharge shall be applied to all counted credit hours in excess of 140 hours. For board-approved programs whose requirements exceed 128 credit hours, the surcharge shall be applied to all credit hours that exceed 110 percent of the hours required.

For students earning a baccalaureate degree other than their first, the surcharge shall apply to all counted credit hours that exceed 100 percent of the minimum additional credit hours needed to earn that additional baccalaureate degree.

Here, summer school becomes a viable option again. Not every student knows what they wants to major in when they enroll at UNC Charlotte and not every student stays within the first major they select. I know people who have switched majors three or four times, for better or for worse, but that choice belongs to them, as does the option for summer school.

Courses taken over the summer at UNC Charlotte are not counted in the tuition surcharge – neither are Advanced Placement credits, College Level Examination Program credits, military science courses required to earn a military commission or transfer credits from out-of-state or private institutions. This opens a lot of doors for students who also have the ability to use financial aid over the summer.

Tuition and fees will generally be a hard hit to the pockets of a middle class family or independent student paying for college without the support of family. For some, summer is a time for adventure and study abroad experiences. For others, it is an opportune moment to get your academic life together.

Either way, summer school remains affordable, available and viable for Niners and should be a researched option for any student attempting to get ahead, catch up or maintain a level of academic rigor over the summer.

OP-ED: U.S. Rep. Alma Adams is the politician we need

North Carolinians are looking for a political lightning rod. Specifically in Mecklenburg County, we see and hear the same names. It gets old receiving the same results. That’s why people like N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson are so important to those who care about or study politics. Jackson’s campaign messages turned into floor speeches in the General Assembly and will prompt future campaign donations from myself and others who are not even members of his district but are still inspired by his message and rise within North Carolina politics.

Now juxtapose Jackson with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and we can find several similarities. If necessary, they are both willing to stand with or against the party because, although the party changes, the single mother still scrambles to feed her child. They are issue and conscience-based politicians, which is why their message resonates across party lines.

We need more politicians like them. In fact, one is sitting in the 12 Congressional District right now. Recently elected, her name is Rep. Alma Adams. She is a former member of the Greensboro City Council and the General Assembly and now represents the I-85 corridor in North Carolina, spanning parts of High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Salisbury and Charlotte.

One of the most gerrymandered districts in the United States, the 12th District is the lightning rod for Southeast politics because of its diversity within sectors of employment and the fact that more than seven colleges and universities sit either within the district or in its periphery.

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams talks with local students. Photo courtesy of Alma Adams for Congress
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams talks with local students. Photo courtesy of Alma Adams for Congress

Adams sits on the Agriculture Committee, Education and the Workplace Committee and Small Business Committee. Her committee appointments place her in a unique position. Adams will have a say on issues regarding trade, Dodd-Frank, Stafford Loans, oversight of the USDA, FDA and EPA and the concerns of the citizens in the 12th District. She can be North Carolina’s hybrid of Warren and Jackson – maybe even better.

Warren gained traction because of her populist and moderate viewpoints regarding social, economic and administrative theories. We live in the age of Jackson and Warren, and Adams should conduct herself accordingly. That means she should engage in social media. We need to see speeches on the House floor, and we need to see recordings of Adams in the Committee on Education and the Workplace grilling Secretary Arne Duncan for extending Sallie Mae and Navient contracts to service our Stafford Loan program.

Adams could be the thunder on Capitol Hill to the lightning the electorate showed at the ballot box when she received 130,096 votes compared to Vince Coakley’s 42,568. Those margins provide Adams a clear path to make noise and ruffle feathers. Her opponents were no match for her record on the school board, city council and, later, the General Assembly.

Her experience and ability to raise funds creates the perfect recipe for the 12 District’s hybrid of Warren and Jackson. She’s a politician who actually cares about people, and that is what we need.

I look forward to watching her work, as she has already; however, there is always room for improvement. Rep. Adams has the constituents, funds and capacity to be our 21st century representative: using her YouTube channel and committee meetings to her advantage, breaking with the party when it’s not popular and creating the change we seek in this district – a district with the highest unemployment, incarceration and high school dropout rates, in conjunction with low wages, lack of workplace protections and accumulating college debt. The 12 Congressional District had to wait over 10 months just to elect representation. Now we have it, so let us use it.

OP-ED: The blunders of the NCDP

I have a love-hate relationship with politicking – specifically, when establishments get in the way of candidates and people who want and can do great things for our state and party. This story is about the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) or what’s functionally left of it. Take Randy Voller, the current but embattled president, for instance. Voller is accused of awarding contracts and money to his friends, owing back taxes and charging over $3,000 on a trip to Las Vegas with his friends to watch a basketball game.

Wait – I’m not done. As if this wasn’t bad enough for our “competent” party, we now bring to the front Patsy Keever, the first vice chair of the party. I know my Republican friends remember her from last October when she thought it was a grand idea to use NCDP funds to send out a “voter shaming” letter stating, “Public records will tell the community at-large whether you vote or not …i  t would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed by the inconsistent voting of many of your neighbors.”

The letter gets even better as Vice Chair Keever continues, “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not,” because apparently North Carolinians owe Keever and the Democratic Party an explanation. Keever using NCDP funds for this failure of a project also contributed to the organization losing even the least contested N.C. House of Representative seats up for election.

She didn’t resign after her failed letter campaign, and recently, she thought it was OK to turn a political forum into a discriminatory comedy in which she called Janice Covington, an openly transgender activist and candidate for NCDP chair, a man. The context of the insult is not important; the fact that an educated woman in one of the highest leadership positions in this state thought this remark was appropriate or funny is enough for me to close my wallet for the next couple of election cycles, especially if she wins. The chair should be more than a fundraiser for this morally confused and fiscally broke party.

Let’s be fair here, if a GOP leader had called Janice a man, we would demand his or her resignation and rightly so. So I need Voller to explain why he didn’t encourage Keever to not only drop out of the race but also resign as first vice chair. Then, I need to hear Keever explain why she not only thought an apology would suffice but also why she hasn’t dropped out of the race or resigned from her position.

Maybe it’s a generational dilemma; some blamed her “mistake” on her lack of knowledge of the transgender community. Covington introduced herself as a woman but was called a man – Keever is excused from this because she didn’t know?

What is even more interesting is the fact that leadership from Human Rights Campaign North Carolina, LGBT Democrats of North Carolina and Mecklenburg County have acknowledged Keever’s mistake but have remained supportive of her candidacy. These individuals and groups just told everyone that it’s OK to purposefully misgender someone as long as you apologize later.

These “leaders” do not see it this way, but I can promise them it’s not my problem – it’s theirs. My candidates will receive my campaign donations, volunteer hours and undivided support because I can recognize people and establishments worth my time and money.

The NCDP has made many mistakes, and they keep building upon each other. If Keever is elected chair simply because the party is broke, the Democrats will be guilty of the same thing they charge Republicans with: putting money over values. The NCDP can have fun next election cycle without my generation’s help or money because we have morals and refuse to take apologies from shady parties and their politicians. I am a registered Democrat, but that doesn’t mean I have to vote like it.

OP-ED: So many boards, so few voices

It may come as a surprise to many, but I have a love-hate relationship with politics. I appreciate the truth at all times and ensure that those who deliver it have my full backing, which usually means the backing of my friends as well. So it should also come as no surprise to my Niner family how excited I was working the polls this past election.

I saw friends who are members of fraternities and sororities from National Pan-Hellenic Council, Diversified Greek Council and Interfraternity Council. Members of the College Republicans and College Democrats handed out literature for hours and advocated for issues and politicians – all for the success of their favored candidates, of course.

For those of us who truly understand the power of the vote, this was more than a set of community service hours, and it was more than a resume builder. In these positions, we were conductors of our futures, and now that the election is over and the majority of people have forgotten about Senator Hagan, we can focus on the now and the local.

It should also come as no surprise to our readers how frustrated I get by systems controlled by politics and politicians, but not the kind we would find on a ballot box. This article is dedicated to our home at UNC Charlotte and the people who help run it.

They are mostly unseen, unless you go to a speaking engagement in our Center City building, a dedication or are invited to an event at the Chancellors residence or Alumni House. But if you did meet one of our Board of Trustees members, what would you ask them?

I have always been one to maintain relevancy in conversation, even when variances in education, income and influence have been beyond measure, because to me, power is relative – something that is given by a person, that can also be taken away.

So that brings us to our governing Board of Trustees – the group that decides who should be our Chancellor, votes on our tuition and fee increases, votes to set priorities for UNCC, like our Campus Master Plan, and so much more. Our Board of Trustees is comprised of 13 members; the General Assembly elects eight, the governor appoints four and then there is our ex officio member, Student Body President Steven Serio. Interestingly enough, our UNC System Board of Governors is comprised of 32 voting members elected by both houses of the General Assembly.

These facts are important because we have approached a road less traveled by a generation that only cares when it is relevant. As far as I’m concerned, you still receive e-bills, and after you graduate, the Alumni Association will greatly appreciate any and all donations. That means you will always be a relevant part of our Niner family, so act like it.

We can start by increasing the attendance rates at our own Board of Trustees meetings. For those of you who are upset by the amount of attention and funding dedicated to our football program, look no further than these two boards, as they voted for its approval after “significant student input.”

We need changes to how our Board of Trustees operates. We can start by contacting our re-elected representatives; the representative for our university area is Representative Carla Cunningham. You should also reach out to Representatives Tricia Cotham, Linda Johnson and Charles Jeter. These representatives can submit legislation that would change how the Board of Governors operates; they also change how our Board of Trustees operates.

At this time, there are so many boards and committees and not enough voices. You will be hard pressed to find an adult who cares and understands college students’ needs more than another college student. We have voted, yet there is no real representation for us on either board.

Yes, we have a member on the Board of Trustees but he is ex officio. In my respectful but blunt opinion, there is nothing worse than a title with no weight. Elected by his peers, Serio should be just as powerful a voice on that board, but you don’t need to attend the meetings to know that is not the case.

The membership of the Board of Governors and UNCC’s Board of Trustees need to hear us loud and clear. The NC Student Power Union has already staged a walkout at UNCC and other sister institutions, I now encourage we walk-in! We must be present at our Board of Governors meetings as well as our Board of Trustees meetings.

At times when attending is difficult, call them and ask what was discussed, voted on, tabled, etc. The Board of Governors publishes the minutes for all of their meetings on its website. There you can see where UNCC was authorized to purchase land, designate a millennial campus, approve funding for housing projects and the PORTAL building.

All of that information is there, but it is discussed and voted on at the university level before it reaches the state. Essentially, we learn of these details after it has been decided. It is disrespectful to the student body and a blow to transparency.

The university’s website has the infrastructure to publish the Board of Trustees work, so why hasn’t it been done? I requested a copy of the minutes for a special meeting that was held two weeks ago. The secretary took my email and cell phone but first asked why I needed the minutes.

With respect, I hear this often from staff and faculty at this university and so I will answer here: I do not have to justify a request for public information – work that can only be completed because of taxpayers. It burdens me to say I have yet to receive these minutes, but I can guarantee you, we have already paid the price.

I must remind you of the goals. I hope we attend and question more of our officials. I hope for less talk of tuition increases; as the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meeting showed me, they all lack the ability to say, “decrease.”

Our state representatives in the House and Senate must vote to change this injustice we face. It’s close to but still far away from “taxation without representation.” We pay to be a member institution without getting a member’s say. We pay to learn how to become future leaders, nurses and politicians just to be stifled by a bureaucracy last revised in 1972.

It’s 2014, and time has again shown our representatives that we do vote, we do pay attention and we do pay taxes. If you can stand up at a blowout football game in 80 degree heat after tailgating for four hours, you can attend an air-conditioned meeting for an hour and let your voice be heard. At least now you know the names of all of the members of the board – no more excuses.


UPDATE: Student Body President Steven Serio states, “Even as an ex officio member of the board, I have full voting and speaking power, just like any other board member.”

OP-ED: Bottom of the ballot: electing the public official college students are most likely to meet

Photos by Sean Grier.

Disclaimer: Sean Grier is a volunteer for the Committee to Elect Yolanda Trotman. All views not explicitly stated by Yolanda Trotman belong to Sean Grier.

You can find her at a town hall Tuesday morning forum, beside you on a pew or, if all goes as planned, on the bench. Her name is Yolanda Trotman, and she is running for District Court Judge for District 26. That district contains all of Mecklenburg County, and that is where this campaign trail, as well as her career in family, divorce, criminal and estate planning, has brought her.

She was born in High Point, N.C. to a Baptist minister and a schoolteacher, who both inspired her to achieve and, above all else, serve. That calling led her to UNC Charlotte, where she studied history, and the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.

She started teaching history, speech and debate at North Mecklenburg High School; she also coached their mock-trial team. From there, Trotman knew what she needed to pursue: law. And that’s how the story began for Trotman Law – a beacon for 10 years for any person or family who needed an advocate and legal consultation.

Trotman has handled cases in family law and criminal defense matters. She states that she also has trial experience and has practiced law in nearly every type of courtroom in the courthouse. “I began my legal career as an Assistant Public Defender, and for those two years I was in District Court handling all types of matters before I was promoted to felony drug cases,” said Trotman.

These cases and exposure made Trotman realize more firmly what she already knew: “Justice is not one size fits all. I believe that judges must be connected to the communities that they serve since judges are public servants. The public and members of the bar must be treated with dignity and respect.”

On the launching day of the campaign, Trotman assured her audience that the decision to run was not made lightly. District Court handles civil disputes under $25,000, family matters, juvenile matters, traffic and misdemeanor cases and felony matters before there is an indictment.

“I am blessed to have a busy practice, and I love what I do. But I believe there must be a smarter approach to justice. District Court affects the lives of everyone, and having a judge that understands the problems that real people face is critical. I am ready to serve the community, and I would love your support and your vote,” said Trotman to a packed room of supporters.

Students have a greater chance of coming before a member of the judiciary than any other branch of government. College students receive a high proportion of tickets for DWIs, assault and drug charges. It is imperative to choose a candidate that takes into consideration the law, individual, circumstances and impact that any judgment or charge can have on a young adult’s life.

Luckily for the general public, Trotman stands by a legal philosophy we can all find solace in. “I am committed to fairness for all, respect for the law and a smart approach to justice…I believe that one can be firm but fair,” said Trotman. “Judges affect the lives of everyday people and should understand the issues that everyday people face to be effective on the bench.”

When questioned about voter apathy, 18-35 demographic turnouts and judges being at the bottom of the ballot, Trotman had two words: social media. “Social media has been huge for the campaign,” said Trotman. “Although I have some people working on my social media from time to time, nearly 100 percent of the time, it is me. I want my posts and tweets to be authentic to who I am.”

Trotman feels like younger voters can and will make the difference in this election and that social media was a great way to reach them. The impact has been felt across the campaign; people have shown up to events just because they saw their friend “like” the event or page. She jokingly commands, “Stop what you’re doing and go like the Facebook (yolandatrotmanforjudge) and follow me on Instagram (yolandaforjudge)!”

As a history teacher, she always talked about the importance of character in how you handle situations and how you deal with people. “I also taught the importance of voting and understanding the impact that the actions of prior generations had on them and to honor that legacy by exercising the right to vote,” said Trotman.

The teaching didn’t stop after Trotman left the classroom. Her law firm has recently hosted two information sessions on knowing your voting and constitutional rights. Trotman Law also hosted a free legal clinic in August about the different areas of the law. Currently, Trotman is hosting a children’s coat drive.

From the classroom to the courtroom, Trotman has proven herself worthy to all who choose her. She has the dedication, passion and approachable personality that would benefit all who came before her as judge.

Trotman is running for the Nixon seat. It’s a countywide race and early voting has already begun. During the course of this interview, I met Trotman at an early voting site where she greeted every voter and their family members. She is kind, smart and fierce, and the bench needs a candidate like that.

North Carolina is rare in that its citizens elect judges. Yolanda Trotman is running, and she hopes you will research all of the candidates, regardless of political affiliation (judicial elections are non-partisan).

OP-ED: UNC Charlotte College Republicans offer their perspective as midterm elections approach

The UNC Charlotte College Republicans support North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
The UNC Charlotte College Republicans support North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

The midterm elections have begun, and so far a total of 22,678 people have voted in Mecklenburg County. Throughout the year our leaders made some interesting decisions that have enormous ramifications on our lives. There has been a tax on insurance plans and meal plans, increased vehicle registration fees, and mounting student loan and credit card debt.

At the center of all of these actions by our legislators are not just lobbyists or ill-willed intentions but the voters. We have the right to vote in this state, and with that votes comes a set of new responsibilities that we as college students should feel honored to express.

North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race is one of the most hotly contested races in the country. At the time of research, campaigns spent over $59 million in North Carolina in a bid to win over the voters. Most importantly for students, the perspective of our student leaders allows us to see how someone of the same age demographic views this election. I sought out the leadership of the College Republicans, Blake Underwood and John Daley.

Underwood believes that the most important race in North Carolina’s midterm election is the race for U.S. Senate between the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Thom Tillis and incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

“North Carolina cannot afford another six years of Kay Hagan and her failed policies,” said Underwood. “North Carolinians deserve a real leader who will go to Washington and fight for our interests. Speaker Tillis has the experience to do just that.”

From the perspectives of Underwood and Daley, Republicans are interested in reducing spending, cutting taxes and providing opportunities for hard-working Americans, whereas the Democrats insist that the outdated tax and spend system still works.

According to Daley, who is also the President Pro Tempore of the Student Government Association, the Republican Party is the party of the individual, not the whole. He contends that the Republican Party stands for individual freedom and liberty.

To Underwood, college students are by far the most independent generation to come through the electoral process.

“We do not want to be told what to do, but rather forge our own paths,” said Underwood.” We do not like it when people interfere in our lives, and we want to pursue our careers and go after whatever makes us happiest in life.”

And the party of the individual lets the people decide to go after what makes them happiest, without fear of government intervention.

To Daley some of the most pressing issues pertaining to college students and recent graduates are access to jobs. “Under the Obama administration, a recent college graduate has a 50 percent chance of finding a job within the six months after graduation,” said Daley. “This is an astounding figure that directly relates to the Obama administration’s failure to address the issue of jobs in America. Students want careers when they graduate.”

Underwood understands that some people do not want to get involved in politics because they feel like their voices are not heard or that they do not matter, but with an election this close, every vote counts.

Overall, these College Republican leaders are optimistic about the opportunity to vote and make a difference for the state of North Carolina and the country.  While they believe Citizens United highlights the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party and agree with the Supreme Court ruling upholding North Carolina’s voting bill – which I wholeheartedly disagree with – they are both genuine and respectful Niners speaking from a different perspective.

We agree on many things stated and unstated, including Underwood’s claim, “We’ve all enjoyed watching the debates so far. It’s a shame that Kay Hagan would only agree to debate Tom Tillis three times. Voters want to hear Kay Hagan defend her record, and instead, she’s running away from them.”

It should be noted that neither Hagan nor Tillis showed up at the U.S. Senate debate held on campus on Oct. 17. Three write-in candidates and a Libertarian candidate were present. You can read more on that debate at