Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz Speaks at UNC


On Monday, October 20th, progressive minded students filled Gerrard Hall looking to see Democratic National Committee Chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speak about the importance of the upcoming midterm election between incumbent North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan and her opposition Thom Tillis.

The event began with introductions from Louis Duke , president of the College Democrats of North Carolina, and Natasha McKenzie, president of the College Democrats of America – commenting on the regressive policies implemented by the North Carolina state legislature in  past years. Duke noted that North Carolina had become the “laughing stock of the nation,” emphasizing the importance of reelecting Kay Hagan.

Following the College Democrats and tailoring her speech to the youthful crowd, Congresswoman Schultz focused on her own political experiences in college noting her desire to help make peoples’ lives better through public service. Describing how she knocked on over 25,000 doors at the age of 25 for her own campaign, Schultz aimed to spur the grassroots sentiment and get-out-the-vote work needed to be done by the student audience. Finally, she noted Hagan’s track record of fighting for North Carolinians and Tillis’s record of cutting education, preventing access to healthcare, and restricting voting amongst different demographics including women and college aged students.

To end, North Carolina Congressmen David Price discussed the importance of this election not only in terms of deciding the fate of the United State Senate, but also in defining the legacy of North Carolina as a state and leader of the New South. He expressed how during his time at UNC in the 1960s, he fought for greater racial integration as Franklin Street had only one restaurant which accepted people of all races. In that legacy, he characterized North Carolina as a leader in the New South characterized by inclusivity and racial and economic diversity.

Fellow students, early voting begins on October 23rd at the Hillel on 210 West Cameron Street ending on November 1st. We urge you to get out the vote and make sure your friends do so as well. Your participation in this election is crucial. Never forget that this is your state, your country, and that you have a say in determining its future.


A Brief History of the Racist Landmarks at UNC


Often, the narratives we form about our history connect more to our beliefs about the current world than they do about what actually happened in the past.  With that in mind, the story of the University of North Carolina exists somewhat romantically in the minds of most students and alumni.  After all, as one of the first public universities in the United States, our school opened the door for a more universal education system.  For many it exists as the pinnacle of North Carolina’s achievements.  This particular narrative of school history is plagued by a blatant disregard for the history of minorities, particularly African Americans, at Chapel Hill.  Yet, generally, the more troubling aspects of our school’s history have receded away from public consciousness.

In no way is this a new conversation, but it is an important one.  It’s also one that the late historian, social activist, and UNC graduate, John K. Chapman, devoted a lot of his time exploring.  In his 2006 Phd dissertation, called “Black Freedom and the University of Chapel Hill,” Chapman began revising the idea that we are, as he called it, a “University of the People.”  Writing that “previous scholarship has contributed to a culture of denial and racial historical amnesia” he made the case that the university still has not come to terms with its past.  Everyday students walk past monuments of racism, often with little knowledge of their white supremacist connections.


Let’s take a tour of the some of the most familiar landmarks at UNC with questionable or overtly racist histories:

1. Dean Smith Center and Kenan Stadium



Stopping first at both the Dean Dome and Kenan Stadium, we must begin with the beloved Tar Heel nickname.  Yes, we students shout it in a reverberating echo at most sporting events, “TAR… HEEL… TAR… HEEL!”  Have you ever wondered why we picked a dirty appendage rather than a more sensible nickname like the Wildcats or the Demon Deacons? (Just kidding about Demon Deacons. That’s dumb. What were you thinking, Wake Forest?)  Well the etymology of the nickname “Tar Heel” is a bit convoluted.  It began as a pejorative commentary on North Carolina’s early colonial shipping industry, where tar and pitch were used to coat the bottom of ships.  It was obviously an indication of poverty and low class if you were constantly walking around with tar on the bottom of your heels.  However, “Tar Heel” quickly became a common term for North Carolina’s soldiers in both the Revolutionary and Civil War.  Especially during the Civil War, “Tar Heel” became a proud name for men fighting for their state.  Most famously, it was used by the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, who once remarked, “God bless the Tar Heel boys!”  The nickname made perfect sense to UNC students and they cemented its collegiate use with the founding of a newspaper in 1893, called The Tar Heel (later renamed The Daily Tar Heel).  So, in summary, this is a bit like naming your sports team the Rebels (Shout out to the University of Mississippi!).

If right now you’re tempted to tell me, “heritage not hate,” understand that the history of the Confederacy carries with it a complex baggage that means different things to people of different backgrounds.  Keep in mind that, according to the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, it was an institution openly founded “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”  I won’t waste much time trying to convince you that we need to change our name simply because it references Confederate soldiers.  That question is certainly still a matter of debate.  It’s more important that we as a school understand where our name and identity comes from.  With that thought in mind, let’s keep going…

2. Silent Sam, completed in 1913


Here we have Silent Sam, probably one of the most controversial features of our campus.  To some, he is merely a monument to the 321 UNC alumni that lost their lives fighting for the Confederacy.  Taken merely as a memorial to the great human costs of the Civil War, Sam reminds us that many who went off to fight and die were compelled by their government to do so.  However, this sentiment is muddied by the intentions of those who funded his construction.  Erected in 1913 with support from the Daughters of the Confederacy, the dedication of Silent Sam lacked the sorrowful tone and dignity of, say, a Ken Burn’s documentary.  It was more like your most racist elderly relatives getting together at Thanksgiving to discuss “the good old days,” i.e. when free forced labor was government sanctioned.

One of the speakers at the dedication was a wealthy industrialist, named Julian Shakespeare Carr.  Thirteen years earlier, Carr had run unsuccessfully for the US Senate on the platform of white supremacy.  His beliefs were evident throughout his speech, stating, “The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”  If it wasn’t clear to his audience at that point that he was a racist, the anecdote he told later in the same speech probably cleared that up.  Bragging about how he “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” because “she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady,” Carr obviously took great pride in having beaten a Black woman half to death.  (His entire speech can be found here, from UNC’s archives.)

3. The Carr Building, completed in 1900


So guess what? That guy from the story above… he got his own building at UNC.  Carr Building opened as a dormitory in 1900 and now functions as a faculty office building.  To be honest, getting this building was probably lower on his list of achievements than getting the whole town of Carrboro named in honor of him.  Ever eaten at Elmo’s diner at the Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro?  Carr Mill was the old cotton factory Carr owned, reopened as a shopping mall in 1974.  Julian Carr was also instrumental in turning Trinity College into Duke University.  While this one was probably a lesser lapse in moral judgement than many other things he’d done, it doesn’t make me like him anymore.  As it turns out, Duke also has a building dedicated to him.

4. Saunders Hall, completed in 1922


Next on our list of buildings dedicated to awful white dudes is Saunders Hall.  William L. Saunders graduated from UNC in 1854 and went on to serve as a colonel during the Civil War.  After the war, from his home in Chapel Hill, he became a chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.

Although many of you are probably familiar with the organization, allow me to offer a brief history of the KKK.  After the Civil War, many whites became very concerned with the shifts in power that allowed Black Republicans to hold political office (an idea I’ll return to in the next section).  The KKK was created under the guise of protection for white Southerners against yankee “carpetbaggers” and Blacks.  In reality, they committed acts of violence and murder against Black citizens, doing everything they could to intimidate Blacks from voting.  Though many defenders of Confederate heritage hold the KKK separate from Confederate soldiers, it is true that many Southerners joined the Klan after returning home from war.  The original organization was created by six veterans of the Confederate Army, and quickly joined by one of the most famous Confederate generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

William Saunders orchestrated the beatings and assassinations of Blacks in many of the Piedmont counties, including Orange County.  After Democrats brutally forced their way back into power, Saunders served as North Carolina’s Secretary of State and Secretary of the Executive Committee of the UNC Board of Trustees.

5. Spencer Dormitory, completed in 1924


Here’s a change of pace from all the hating on white dudes: Spencer dormitory, completed in 1924 as the first residence hall for women, was named after a lady, Cornelia Phillips Spencer.  Her story, like many stories constructed from the Reconstruction era, portrays the bravery of white Southern men and women following the devastation of the Civil War.  If you’ve seen Gone With the Wind then this type of romanticism towards the South should be familiar.  As the old story goes: yankees come and ruin everything (i.e. free forced labor is no longer a government sanctioned activity), yankees take everything but the grace and dignity of the Southern people, and now the beautiful and brave white Southerners must make the best of their new circumstances (i.e. turn previously free forced labor into very cheap labor).  Cornelia Spencer, the daughter of a UNC professor, was one of those beautiful and brave Southern women responsible for pulling the university back together under these new circumstances.  Credited with reopening UNC after its devastation during the Civil War, Spencer begged the legislature for the funds necessary.  In 1875, after finally receiving $125,000 from the state government, she climbed to the top of South Building and rang its bell, announcing to the entire town that the university would soon be reopened.  Known heroically as “the woman who rang the bell,” Spencer’s story remains untarnished by pertinent truths concerning her cause or beliefs.

The real story of Reconstruction is far more complicated than the one we see depicted in Gone With the Wind or Spencer’s story.  To put things briefly, Reconstruction was initially a very radical change in the political power structure of the South.  With the Republican party in charge, from 1870 to 1876, North Carolina had 30 Black state legislators and one Black U.S. Congressman, named John A. Hyman.  Men like Hyman, formerly enslaved, were now representing a constituency in North Carolina that had never before been heard.  Of course, this made most Southerners very angry.  So angry that they could not bear to see their university open under such a government.  A fact that often gets left out of the original story, Cornelia Spencer was instrumental in closing the university in 1870 to protect it from Reconstruction politics.  She fought alongside men like Col. William Saunders to defend white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan while dismantling North Carolina’s Reconstruction government and voting rights for Blacks.  While she is still hailed by some as a crusader for women’s equality, it is clear that she only wanted power in the hands of white men and women (side note: unfortunately, many of history’s greatest crusaders for women’s equality were also white supremacists).

6. Daniels Building/Student Stores, completed in 1968


Okay, back to the awful white dudes. There are just two more awful white dudes to suffer through (well on this list, anyway).  Daniels Student Stores is one of those buildings that all of us, regardless of our major, have been through too many times to count.  Completed in 1868, it was named after Josephus Daniels, a former editor of the Raleigh News and Observer and Secretary of the Navy during the Wilson administration.  As editor of the News and Observer, Daniels is credited with forming a new white supremacy campaign in North Carolina, leading to Democratic victories in 1898 and 1900.

Prior to these dates, during the 1890s, North Carolina had once again achieved a coalition of Black and white representatives within the state legislature. In an era of Fusion politics, Black Republicans and white populists formed a powerful alliance dedicated to things like education and voting reform.  It wasn’t until 1898, when the Democrats of the state essentially took their power back by force that Blacks would finally be kicked out of office.  The Wilmington Race Riot is one of the most famous and violent example of whites overturning the democratic process in favor of outright thuggery.  During the election of 1898, the Democrats of Wilmington stuffed the ballot boxes with candidates of the white supremacy campaign.  Despite their efforts, voters elected a biracial fusionist government to serve in the city government.  Two days after the election, 500 white men went on a rampage, killing an unknown number of Black citizens and forcing the fusionist politicians to resign.  Josephus Daniels was instrumental in creating this tension that erupted into mass violence, writing in the Raleigh News and Observer that Wilmington suffered from “Negro domination.”  His newspaper frequently published racist propaganda, meant to frighten white citizens away from electing Blacks to political office or even allowing them to vote.  After the riot, the white supremacists of Wilmington pointed to Daniels as their catalyst for violence.

7. Hamilton Hall, completed in 1972


Last awful white dude on this list is J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton, a professor of history at the university from 1906 to 1948.  Hamilton Hall was built in 1972 as housing for the departments of History, Political Science, and Sociology.  The school chose the name in recognition of Hamilton’s historical contributions to the university, including the creation of the Southern Historical Collection.  However, it was his writings on Reconstruction that won him a job at UNC’s History Department.  Like the white supremacist historians who constructed the heroic narrative about Cornelia Spencer, Hamilton’s history sought to romanticize the efforts of white Southerners after Reconstruction.  In his 1914 book, Reconstruction in North Carolina, he praised the Ku Klux Klan for restoring “political power to the white race.”

8. Unsung Founders Memorial, completed in 2005


The Unsung Founders Memorial is located in MCcorkle Place, not far from the Silent Sam monument.  It contains the inscription, “The Class of 2002 honors the University’s unsung founders – the people of color bond and free – who helped build the Carolina that we cherish today.”  Yet, for many, this “memorial” exists as a rather sad representation of the university’s failure to come to terms with its racist past.  In 2009, a forum was conducted to discuss the race relations in Chapel Hill.  A local poet, C.J. Suitt addressed the issues with the memorial, saying that the university “has erected a 20-foot-tall monument to the Civil War, ‘Silent Sam,’ and less than a hundred yards away is a slave monument that’s … a table – a table that has these two-foot slaves holding it up,” He added, “The last time I walked past there was a lovely white family enjoying lunch.”
This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list of all of UNC’s racial problems.  The visible landmarks at our school are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the discussion of racial inequality.  However, they are a good place to start.  Often history is a good place to start when it comes to evaluating our present circumstances.  The University of North Carolina has been a historic defender of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy, and countless activists have worked to expose this truth on our campus.  In 1999, Students Seeking Historical Truth was founded by current and former members of UNC’s Black Student Movement.  They worked to encourage historical honesty from the university concerning the many buildings you read about above.  Today, The Real Silent Sam is a group that exists on campus, founded in 2011 to “create honest public dialogue and provoke critical thought surrounding the monuments and buildings in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.”  The conversation they have sparked demands that the university challenge both its past and present, and confront the fact that institutional racism persists as a problem at our university.  For example, last year, it was discovered that our newest class, the class of 2017, has just 98 African American males out of 4,000 students.  Black students continue to be a minority at a school that has historically championed their disenfranchisement.  It is hard to imagine that we could ever have been considered a “University of the People.”

Governor Pat McCrory gives keynote address on University Day


In 1974, Governor Pat McCrory was a senior at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC. His brother, Phil was an incoming first year here at Carolina. A buddy of McCrory’s dropped him off on Franklin street and he got into his brother’s 1972 128 Fiat, where he told his brother to turn on the air condition. It was hot. But his brother refused, because they were at Carolina, and here, we roll down the windows.

During his keynote address at University Day this week, Governor Pat McCrory began with this story. He was in awe of Carolina when he visited his brother here, stating “ “This campus was the most beautiful university I had ever visited.” It was a place he said he respected, a place he wanted to return to, a place he still held in high regard.

McCrory called on all members of the Carolina community to strengthen the “UNC brand”, and stressed the obstacles that he and the chancellor had to fix coming in to Carolina. As North Carolina governor, McCrory said he inherited the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country, a debt of more than 2.5 billion dollars owed to the federal government, and he “also had to deal with teachers” who had not had a pay raise for over 5 years. McCrory claimed to have begun to resolve these problems, and that it was time to focus on long term problems in health care, transportation, and yes, even education.

McCrory stressed the poor oversight on grade policies and grade inflation at the University. He said we should allow our universities to be universities, so that limited public resources should not be used for “remedial coursework”. He said the state could truly only afford to invest in only students ready for the collegiate level, the “best of the best”, and that universities should generate some kind of return to justify public investment. McCrory warned,

“Universities and students must quickly adapt to the ever-changing market movements and demands.”

Although he did not bring up his idea again that North Carolina has “enough psychologists and sociologists and political science majors and journalists”, he did say this week that colleges across the state should be  “honing in on skills and subjects that employers need while stimulating our students’ interests.” He said he talked to employers who said they would move elsewhere if universities do not begin preparing students for the job market, and that this could be a loss for the entire state.

McCrory later shifted his speech to alcohol policy, stating “We also cannot afford for our universities to become illicit drug and alcohol playgrounds, that leads to student abuse, danger and harm to the next generation.” Although he himself admitted to going to a “few bars” with his brother as a teen back in the 1970s, he warned that substance abuse was a dangerous issue that needed attention on college campuses.

Chancellor Folt gave closing remarks, stating that although we have and always will continue to face challenges, these will be our greatest opportunities. On the 10th anniversary of the Carolina Covenant Scholars program, she stressed the economic diversity of the University and the public’s contribution to UNC. Before McCrory gave the keynote address, Krista Perreira was honored with the faculty service Graham Award as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research, and several alumni, including former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt, were honored for their contributions to the University and the state.

10 Things To Know About NC Attorney General Roy Cooper


NC Attorney General, Roy Cooper, will be speaking at UNC on Tuesday, October 14th at 7:00 p.m. in Bingham 103.  The event is hosted by the Young Democrats.  Before you hear him speak, here’s 10 things you should know about him.


  1. He’s a UNC alum and Morehead scholar.  He also received his law degree from UNC.
  2. He has won every election he has ever entered, and in 2008 he received more votes for any candidate in any office in the history of the state.
  3. Cooper is credited for handling the Duke Lacrosse scandal in 2006, and is responsible for the lacrosse players’ innocent verdict.
  4. He’s had an impressive political career. As a Democrat, he has been elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives and later the North Carolina Senate.  In 1997 he was elected Senate Majority Leader.  In his tenure in N.C. congress, Cooper “wrote North Carolina’s first children’s health insurance initiative, passed laws that set a national standard against predatory lenders, pushed tougher safety standards for child care centers, gave victims new rights through the Crime Victims Bill of Rights, banned guns from schools, and helped create a graduated license program to give young drivers more training,” according to his website.
  5. Cooper has served as North Carolina’s Attorney General since 2000.  He is currently in his 4th term.  In 2012, he was unopposed in both the Democratic primary and general election.
  6. As Attorney General, Cooper has increased DNA testing at crime scene investigations, increased penalties on meth labs, and increased Do Not Call restrictions for telemarketers. He has also created emergency plans and trainings for school shootings. You can see a more extensive record of his accomplishments at the NC Department of Justice’s website.
  7. In 2010, state and national Democrats tried to recruit Cooper to run against Republican Richard Burr for U.S. Senate.  Cooper declined.
  8. It was speculated that he would run for North Carolina governor in 2012 after Governor Bev Perdue’s term ended, but he opted to run for Attorney General again.
  9. Cooper is a potential candidate to run for governor 2016 against Governor Pat McCrory.  He has told reporters, “It’s too early to make a formal announcement, but I’m concerned about our state and I’m clearly making plans.”
  10. 10. Cooper has already started to criticize the Republican take over of North Carolina’s executive and legislative branches.  He has called the current elected officials, “not just conservative but extremists.” He’s condemned tax cuts for the rich and denounced vouchers for private schools with major cuts to education spending.  He’s also identified the rejection of Medicaid expansion as the state’s “most economically reckless decision.”

That’s ten basic things to know about Roy Cooper, so make sure to mark your calendars for Tuesday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m!

Glitter, Puppets and Recess


North Carolina’s primary political players make a great radio show: DJ Thommy T, MC KayHay, and Funk Master Pat. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the circus. As we approach the 2014 midterm election, my voter apathy has never been higher. Incumbent Kay Hagan, the “most moderate Senator” faces Grand Master of North Carolina Politics Thom Tillis in a key Senate race this November. Of course, one cannot forget the mascot of the Republican Party: Governor Puppet, excuse me, Pat, McCrory. I present one single argument in this article, and it is that in the year 2014, North Carolina’s political scene may be the worst it has ever been. I will examine these three players in North Carolina politics, and elaborate on some of their strengths, but mostly their weaknesses.

        In the last election cycle, Kay Hagan managed to raise about $15 million in direct aid for the state of North Carolina, which seems to be fairly effective given the nature of the Congressional beast. In early 2014, the National Journal ranked Hagan as the “most Moderate Senator” in the Senate; Hagan was ranked 51st most liberal, and 49th most conservative. On paper, this is great! Hagan will save the day; she must bring balance to the force, and yet, does she? Hagan is practical: she knows that conservatism runs deep in this state, but has her moderate approach really worked? Hagan claims to care about education, and healthcare, and other issues most liberal candidates care about, but she does not believe in spending large amounts of government money for those things. What the citizen is then left with is a Senator who says she cares about a wide range of issues, but rarely delivers on them because she does not wish to anger conservative voters by spending government’s money. North Carolina, admittedly, is not the easiest state to represent because of the close split between Democrat and Republican voters, and Kay Hagan’s moderation only perpetuates this divide because of her indecisiveness.

        “Businessman Thom Tillis has only been in politics for a few years, but his impact on North Carolina is undeniable,” reads the homepage of Tillis’s website. I was not very familiar with businessman Thom Tillis when I began my research for this piece, but I think this opening statement about sums up Tillis’ political career in North Carolina. Businessman Thom Tillis actually assumed office in 2007, not quite “a few years” ago, but that is not the point here. What matters is that businessman Thom Tillis’ impact on North Carolina is “undeniable.” As Grand Master of the North Carolina General Assembly (NGCA), businessman Thom Tillis oversaw arguably the worst period of legislation in the state’s history. On his website, businessman Thom Tillis boasts about how the NCGA created raises for teachers, bumping North Carolina up to number 32 in the national rankings for teacher pay. There are only a ton of little, insignificant problems that came up with these raises. The raises really only award higher starting pay for new teachers, and of course, that money has to come from somewhere, so why not the longevity pay of veteran teachers? Naturally, those pesky teachers sniffed out the problems with this plan, but businessman Thom Tillis would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling teachers, their dumb dog.

        “The pay for veteran teachers was cut significantly, indicating a desire to replace older, more experienced teachers with younger, cheaper ones.” I can hardly imagine how a group of highly educated lawmakers thought it was a good idea to steal money from older teachers, and give it to younger teachers. “We had earned that [money] already … was very sneaky,” was what another teacher had to say about the raise. “The highest we can earn is $50,000 after 26 years of service.” Meanwhile, our neighbors to the south pay teachers at the very minimum $40,000 after… zero years of service. On top of all that, businessman Thom Tillis and his pals in the NCGA thumped their drums to the beat of not being in the bottom ten states for teacher pay in the United States. What about that one time Governor Jim Hunt brought North Carolina inside the top twenty states for teacher pay in just three years? “I could go on and on.” Finally, the fact that teachers must feel the need to speak under anonymity to voice their opinions about the North Carolina General Assembly is stealing their well-earned pay, signifies that government is failing them on more than one level.

        Aside from the United States Congress, the Chief Executive of the business of North Carolina is the man, the myth, the goober, Pat McCrory. Pat McCrory is the kind of governor who refuses to sign the Coal Ash cleanup bill, even though the bill was going to pass anyway. Pat McCrory fears the reach of Duke Energy so much, he refused to put his name on a piece of legislation authorizing the cleanup of coal ash that devastated the Dan River in North Carolina. Eight months after the actual spill, Duke Energy allocated a measly $10 million for the cleanup of coal ash from dumps in South Carolina. This spill is not a $10 million problem, nor is it a South Carolina problem.

        I do not pretend to be a politician, nor do I claim to have all the solutions for the state of North Carolina. All I know is that come November, I will be hard-pressed to circle any names on my ballot, because it would essentially be picking my poison. I want to vote for Kay Hagan, but I fear that she will succumb to big party politics and fail to deliver on many of her promises. On the other hand, I cannot bring myself to vote for businessman Thom Tillis because he represents the head of the Republican-controlled state congress that has done absolutely nothing for many people in this state. We also cannot forget that Tillis once voted against NC House Bill 1726, the Child Care Nutrition and Activity Standards Act, regulating the amount of sugary drinks children can have, and allocating time spent outside during the school day. I can safely say that I will never vote for a politician who stands against recess.

Vivian Connell: The teacher we all should have had


jenn vivian connell

Ms. Connell at a #SpeakOutNC rally in front of the Old Capital Building in Raleigh

In many ways, my path to advanced critical thinking began in my tenth grade English class. Vivian Connell was always on a passionate mission to make us all aware of the world in which we lived.  She forced us to address the privileges in our society that blocked our view of human suffering.  Through our reading of world literature, we learned to recognize the ways in which we otherize different groups, races, and cultures.  One of the many books we read, a nonfiction work titled The Bookseller of Kabul, detailed the lives of an Afghani bookseller and his family.  Growing up in a predominantly Christian nation at war with an Islamic state, it was imperative that my classmates and I understood the humanity of our supposed enemy. Expanding upon this theme, we studied the otherization that took place during the Holocaust and other historical events. Many of the lessons I learned in her class have driven my college career as a history major and pushed me to engage with social activism.  A good English class allows you to get beyond public school standards and tests, and asks you to form some ideas about the world in which you live.  A good English teacher can make these ideas stick.

About four years ago, Vivian Connell quit her job teaching high school English to go to law school at UNC, hoping to make a change in the public policy surrounding education.  In 2013, she graduated with honors and joined the North Carolina Bar.  Since then she has become an advocate for public education in North Carolina, speaking out against recent policies by the state that wrongly punish teachers for poor academic performances.  In November of last year, at a rally for teachers in Raleigh, Connell told a crowd of protesters “we should be applauding North Carolina educators… teachers in our schools battle an achievement gap created not by poor instruction but by social and economic challenges.”  She went on to list recent “ill conceived policies” created by the current GOP led General Assembly, namely expanding and deregulating charter schools, diverting tax revenue to grant vouchers to a select few students to attend private schools, denying teachers extra pay for advanced degrees, and eliminating due process for teachers (also known as career status.)  Policies like the last two undermine the work that teachers like Connell do in the classroom by driving them to states that offer more competitive pay and fairer treatment.  As a member of Public Schools First, NC’s Advisory Board, she has become a passionate voice for education reform.

In the past year, Vivian Connell’s mark on education reform has gained even larger attention through her recent diagnosis with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.)  In a blog post from March she writes that her life expectancy is roughly three to five years.  Realizing that she must now be more intentional in allocating time and energy, Connell has thought even harder about her lasting contributions to education.  Since graduating from law school, she has also returned to teaching ESL at both Phoenix Academy and Chapel Hill High School–dedicating herself once more to creating lasting and meaningful lessons for her students.  In a successful online campaign, she was able to raise enough money to take her students at Phoenix Academy to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  Her story has become inspiring to many, even gaining national attention.  Former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education and current educational policy activist Diane Ravitch wrote about Connell in her blog.  She called Connell a hero, writing, “I will think of Vivian every time I hear the hireling of a plutocrat tell me that those of us who fight for free, high-quality public education are ‘on the wrong side of history.’ I want to be on the side of history with Vivian.”

Most recently, Vivian Connell has become a vocal supporter of Kay Hagan’s campaign for Senate reelection.  In a campaign ad released in September of this year, Connell appeared as the central voice, saying “Thom Tillis is terrible for education in North Carolina.”  Citing his support of budget cuts to schools and oversized classrooms, Connell argues that the current state Speaker of the House has a bad track record in education policy.  She continues to fight for education reform through both political action and consciousness raising.

In talking to fellow high school alumni, I realized just how large a hand Mrs. Connell has had in the lives of her students.  Lindsey Rosenbaum, a senior at NC State, told me she had never been inspired by a teacher like she was by Mrs. Connell:

“She wanted us to learn for the sake of knowledge, not to meet a test grade, and because she so obviously cared about our education and our learning, it also became very obvious that she would be willing to fight for us.”

When Rosenbaum was falsely charged with plagiarism, Mrs. Connell helped to fight against the accusation.  As an educator, she is willing to fight for her students because she believes so firmly in our right to succeed.  Because of Mrs. Connell, I believe that the path to a better educational system lies in policy that encourages good teachers to remain in our state.  As a teacher, she has helped many students to succeed.  Her hope as an education advocate is to help other teachers make a similar impact in the lives of their students.

Weekly Wrap-Up

“Ah, Friday, the best day. And why is that Dudley?”

“Because there’s Campus BluePrint’s Weekly Wrap-Up on Friday?”

“Right you are Harry! Weekly Wrap-Up on Friday.”

I think I would much prefer to take a midterm in Charms class than in Shakespeare, but that’s just me. Anyways, enough with the Harry Potter, it’s time for the Weekly Wrap-Up!

On Tuesday, a Dallas hospital announced that a patient tested positive for Ebola. Naturally, panic ensued and millions of people across the country began wondering when they would become infected. The Center for Disease Control says that they expect to handle the situation effectively, and that there is little to no risk of infection for Americans. I cast my lot with the CDC on this one; the risk of Ebola becoming widespread in one of the world’s healthiest countries seems very slim.

A little closer to home, a shooting occurred at Albemarle High School early Wednesday morning. Only one student was injured in the conflict, and another student was in police custody shortly after the shooting. Though no one was seriously injured, this shooting reminds us of how violence can arise at anytime. It is a tragedy and a shame these tragic events still happen. We’re all glad that nobody was seriously injured.

Party on, Pluto! It seems that as of Thursday morning, Pluto could potentially become a planet again. For most current college students, we had to go through the trauma of Pluto’s removal from the Planets’ Club, and it seems that Pluto may be back in. This timing is impeccable, given that every college student in the country has finally accepted that Pluto is not a planet. Regardless, this is a huge development in astronomy, and we’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled! Just remember Pluto, we wear pink on Wednesdays.

Finally, a US Appeals Court struck down some measures in the 2013 North Carolina voting law. Should the ruling stand, North Carolina voters will be able to register when they go to vote. Voters will also be able to vote at a different location from where they are registered, as long as that location is within their registered county. Of course, Governor McCrory didn’t like this ruling so much, but I suppose it’s alright given that an overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters don’t like him. If you were looking for to read about the lack of turnout amongst young voters, check out this article by Caroline Woronoff! It’s been a busy week out there in the world, and we look forward to what next week’s got in store for us! Go Heels!

Why won’t young people vote?



@ Wasted Time R

Voting.  It’s a fundamental right at the core of what America stands for: democracy and freedom.  For over 200 years, citizens of the United States have fought for the right to vote.  Over the course of several movements, people of all races, genders, and economic classes have gained the right to vote.  In fact, six of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution have to do with granting access to the right to vote.  Despite its long history and high value in this country, people are choosing not to vote, even when they are eligible.

Voter restrictions have the potential to lead to seriously diminished turnout, but restrictions will not have an effect until 2016.  Voter apathy is what will make or break the coming 2014 election.

People are not showing up to vote. Specifically, young people.

According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 68 percent to 80 percent of registered N.C. voters cast a ballot in 2008 and 2012, both presidential election years.  But in the midterm election in 2010, only 44 percent of registered voters turned out.

Look at the numbers even more closely.  Data from the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State indicates that in 2008 in North Carolina, 18 to 30 years olds made up 10.4 percent of the vote. In 2010, the same age group only made up 3.9 percent of the vote.  On the other hand, senior voters (66+) actually saw a spike in the 2010 midterm election, from 18 percent of the vote in 2008 to 26 percent in 2010.

The divide between young and old voters in North Carolina is about twice as severe as it is on the national scale.  Young voters lean heavily towards the Democratic ticket while older voters swing towards Republicans.  That means that low youth turnout not only hurts North Carolina Democrats, but it hits them twice as hard.

Cara Schumann, a UNC student and a fellow on the Kay Hagan campaign, spends a good portion of her Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Pit registering people to vote.  Speaking as a political activist, her expressed views are not associated with the Hagan campaign.  “At first it wasn’t terribly difficult, a good number of people were pretty receptive to registering.  A few people would actually come up to me, without me having to ask, wanting to register,” she said. “The longer the month went on however, the harder its gotten to get people to register. A lot of people don’t realize they have to update their registration when they move, or they don’t want to vote.”

That said she would estimate that the collective voter registration effort in the Pit has registered a few thousand voters.  But, as multiple voter registration volunteers have attested, they wish they could get more people registered.

Voter registration volunteers have plenty of people tell them that they will vote absentee in their home state, but few people follow through. Some people are blunt and admit that they will not vote.

“That’s always a bit frustrating,” Schumann said. “I don’t think they feel empowered to [vote]. I don’t think a lot of people feel they have time to be informed enough to vote. We need to empower our youth vote. Make it accessible. Making registering accessible. Be clear when and where to vote, and provide easily accessible and synthesized information.”

“It may be some apathy but I doubt that, I’ve seen the passion that UNC students have for all things to do with what is just in this world,” Schumann said.

Every eligible person in North Carolina should cast a ballot this election cycle.  In the 2014 midterm election, the United States Senate seat will be at the top of the ticket. Democrat and incumbent Kay Hagan is running against Republican Speaker of the N.C. House, Thom Tillis.  North Carolina’s senate seat is one of the most contested in the nation, and it is a huge deal.

Currently, the Republicans control the House of Representatives, the sitting President is a Democrat, and the Democrats are the ruling majority in the Senate.  However, Republicans only need to pick up six seats to gain a majority in the Senate, and North Carolina is one of the seats they are going after.

Congress is at an all time low for productivity, hardly getting anything passed due to gridlock.  Obama has in many respects given up on his current congressmen, claiming that he’ll “go it alone” on topics from immigration reform to the minimum wage.  But, if Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate, then Obama will have a real problem on his hands.  It is likely that even less will get done as the executive and legislative branches debate nonstop over every issue that comes up.

Arguably, there was no point in voting for president, yay or nay, if you do not follow through and vote for positions in the legislative branch in midterm cycles.  Checks and balances prevent any branch from getting much done on its own, so you have to vote to get your ideas to both the executive and legislative offices.

North Carolina has a hot race on its hands.  There is more money being spent on the race for North Carolina’s Senate seat than on any other campaign in the nation.  So far, the campaigns and outside interest groups have combined to spend a total of $46 million.  That goes to show not only how valuable the seat is, but also how valuable the majority is–and in this race, the majority may be gained by only a few thousand people.

“We have one of the most important races in the country right now,” said Schumann. “It has the most outside money being poured in. And the odds are that out of state students are not going to absentee ballots or going home. So they should vote regardless of place. Also, our state legislature directly affects their University, the resources we get, what our budget is. They should have a stay in that.”

So what are you going to do about it?  To be eligible to vote you must (1) be a U.S. citizen, (2) must have resided in the country at their registered address for at least 30 days, (3) be 18 years of age by the election, (4) not be serving a sentence for a felony, and (5) must rescind any registration in any other state.

On Election Day, November 4th, the polls are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm.  In order to vote on November 4th, you must be registered to vote by October 10th.  Registering takes 5 minutes.  However, if the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stands, you can register the day you vote if you vote early, from October 23rd-Nov 1st.  It is highly recommended that you register by October 10th because the court ruling has been appealed and could change.

You can print the voter registration form online and mail it to your county board of elections, or UNC students can find the Young Democrats student representatives in the Pit and register in person there.  You can register to vote for any political party in the Pit, not just the Democratic party.  Chris Sigmon, a UNC senior and Political Director of the Young Democrats, said, “I think we’ve gotten a pretty high number of UNC students registered through our efforts, but we can never have enough.”  Voter registration forms can also be found on the first floor of Davis Library.

Voter ID is tricky.  Officially, you will not need to show ID in the 2014 election.  That law takes effect in 2016.  However, if it is your first time voting, you will need to bring some form of identification this November.  That could be

  • a current and valid photo ID [check NC Board of Elections website],
  • a utility bill
  • a bank statement
  • a government check
  • a paycheck, or
  • another government document.

To vote absentee, a ballot request must be received by 5:00 pm on the last Tuesday before an election.  So for this November, your ballot must be received by October 28th [check your county’s Board of Elections website].

If you are already registered to vote, you can check your registration status on North Carolina’s State Board of Elections website using just your full name and date of birth.

If you don’t want to wait in line on November 4th or you will not be in town on November 4th, you can vote early.  UNC students that are registered to vote early may vote at North Carolina Hillel located at 210 W. Cameron Avenue. Early voting occurs over nine days, from October 23rd to November 1st, excluding Sundays.  Hours vary every day.

No matter who you plan to vote for, make sure you cast your ballot this midterm cycle.  Democracy works best when everyone participates because it forces elected officials to listen to all points of view.   Do not stand on the sidelines and then complain about  the laws being enacted.  Elections do matter.

 Caroline Woronoff is a sophomore managing editor for Campus BluePrint. She and all the other staff encourage you get out and vote!