All posts by Morgan Howard

Car Union Administration

Civil Discourse Isn’t a Lecture

As usual, the UNC College Republicans are hosting an event about free speech. Can I just say that if I was politically ignorant and didn’t know what traditional Republican beliefs were and I was solely basing it off the College Republicans, I would think Republicans only care about being anti-political correct and protecting hate speech. Anyway, I digress.

So Dr. Mike Adams is coming to campus next week. He’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He studies sociology and criminology and is a self-proclaimed liberal….interesting.

In the past, Adams has posted things on his Facebook page such as “the only thing more disgusting than a jihadist Muslim is a pro-choice Muslim” and “let’s make it illegal for doctors to mutilate the genitals of the mentally ill. That would resolve the whole hb2 thing”.

Last week, UNC College Republicans wrote a letter to the editor of the The Daily Tar Heel basically saying Adams is a cool guy and the UNC community should come hear him speak.

Here’s my issue. I don’t care that this guy is coming to campus. Come, speak, whatever. But the problem is he is solely speaking, not engaging. He is going to come here, spit his rhetoric about why being politically correct is a joke, probably offend the LGBTQ community, and maybe entertain some questions from the audience about how to deal with being the only republican in their class.

I don’t want to go to that. I don’t want to attend a lecture by someone who is going to shit on my beliefs and then not even going to give me a chance to explain my opinion? That isn’t discourse, it’s a lecture.

If I wanted to engage in civil discourse, I would grab have an actual conversation with someone who has different viewpoints than me. Hint: this doesn’t necessarily have to be a Republican but for the sake of this article let’s pretend it is. We would grab coffee, talk about ideology, talk about political institutions, and try to figure out how we came to develop what we believe. Talk about the experiences and identities we bring to the table and not invalidate them. Listen to learn, not to respond.

If I go see Dr. Mike Adams, is the coffee scenario the kind of civil discourse I will get to engage in? Probably not. And there is the main problem. Sure, I could go to this lecture and ask a question challenging him, but that is not an environment I personally want to be in. I don’t want to ask a question and instead of him answering it, he tries to invalidate me and my opinion. Just like a Republican probably wouldn’t want to come to an explicitly Democrat speaker event and challenge them and then get embarrassed by a room full of people that have pre-conceived notions about you and your party.

The way I see it, I wouldn’t go to this event to engage in civil discourse. I don’t think being surrounded by people who don’t agree with you is the best way to have a conversation. But I would go to gain a different perspective. To hear different opinions, and then maybe discuss them later one on one with someone I did feel comfortable having this conversation with. I’m all for leaning into discomfort, but that discomfort needs to turn into growth.

I guess my point is, UNC College Republicans, own up to what you are doing. If the tables were turned and UNC Young Democrats hosted this type of event would you come? This isn’t civil discourse, this is a lecture to engage in confirmation bias. To have someone confirm what you already believe is true. If you want to engage in civil discourse, have an actual conversation.

A Call to Educators During Trump’s Administration

Another day, another controversial Trump action.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was taking away protections of transgender students from using the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with.

I’m not concerned about Trump, I’m concerned about schools. I’m an activist, of course I’m going to fight this. If a school is being transphobic towards its students, I’ll protest, send letters , call representatives, whatever it takes.

But I can’t be in school with these kids. I can’t keep an ear out in their classrooms and make sure their not being bullied. I can’t be an active bystander and get them out of a threatening situation. I can’t be their teacher and let them know that regardless of how I feel about their identity, I care more about their capability as a student and a human being.  

I can’t do any of that, but educators and students can. Even though these protections are being messed with, schools still have the power and freedom to allow students to chose to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

So, educators, principals, guidance counselors, students, we’re looking at you.

What were you doing for transgender students before this? Barack Obama put the protection of transgender students until Title IX during his time in office, did you help protect that? We all know that just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always enforced, especially in the education system.

Brown v. Board was passed in 1954 and schools under the law had to be desegregated, yet schools didn’t really start becoming integrated till the 1960s. Why? Because educators didn’t care that it was the law they felt it was morally right that black and white students didn’t go to school together. Or, if they didn’t feel this way, they were silent and complicit and rarely challenged their schools so they implementation would occur faster.

So, I’m hoping you in 2017, we are not repeating the mistakes of history. We are not letting our personal moral beliefs stand in the way of a child’s education. I hope you are not silent and complicit if you see a transgender student being bullied or discriminated against. We need educators to be self-aware. Who are you protecting, and at what expense are you protecting them?

Even Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial new Secretary of Education, thinks taking away these protections is a bad move. DeVos did not support this decision and wanted to make sure that schools were doing their part to make sure that bullying and discrimination would not be tolerated.

School is a place meant for learning and growth, not hate and terror. Make sure you are doing your part to ensure that school is a safe environment for every student.

Campus Y Co- Presidents Forum Recap

On Wednesday evening, the candidates running for Campus Y Co-Presidents participated in a forum. The candidates were asked questions, both separately and collectively, about their platform, understanding of social justice, and where they want to take the Campus Y.

Asha Patel and Nick McKenzie are both sophomores who have been involved with the Y since their first year. McKenzie currently holds leadership positions in Nourish-UNC, Hope Gardens, and Carolina Empowerment Fund. Asha currently serves as a co-chair for Hunger Lunch, a venture within Nourish-UNC.

“I think it’s important for a leader to be able to connect to every single person that they interact with and other people working with you,” Patel said.

Running against Patel and McKenzie are Alexander Peeples and Courtney Staton. Peeples is a junior and currently serves as the Co-Director of Development on the Campus Y exec board. Staton is a sophomore and is currently a co-chair of Criminal Justice Awareness and Action.

“Social justice is showing up everyday and not continuing the oppression of other people,” Peeples said.

The forum began with each duo given two minutes to introduce themselves. Then they were asked a variety of questions and given either a minute per person to answer or minute as a duo to answer. For the most part, candidates did well within these time limits.

When asked what would they focus on if they could only accomplish two big goals as co-presidents, Patel and McKenzie said their focus would be on outreach and engagement with as many communities on UNC’s campus as possible. They also wanted to focus on getting more people to be involved with issues in Chapel Hill and municipal elections.

“It’s really powerful that we make sure there’s a larger education component of the Y especially in terms of local elections. We know that it’s going to be a huge issue coming up nationally…,” McKenzie said.

Peeples and Staton believe that the Campus Y has a crucial role in terms of campus activism and said their goal is to continue that role and expand it. They want to make sure the Campus Y provides resources to everyone for greater social good and never tries to take over voices.

“The Campus Y is supposed to be the place where activists across issues can come together and realize how they’re all interconnected and we want the Campus Y to continue to serve as that,” Staton said.

While all candidates had similar views on some things like the Y’s commitment to social justice or the transparency needed between the executive board and committees, other issues caused some tension.

During the audience question and answer session, McKenzie was asked about how he referred to people of color as “colored people” during a previous answer. He also was questioned how he planned to balance his personal political beliefs with the Campus Y given that public records indicate that he voted in the Republican primaries. Specifically, an audience member referenced past and recent legislature the Republican Party has passed that has been damaging to a number of social justice causes.

Both McKenzie and Peeples were asked by the audience how they were planning to self-reflect on their privileges as white males. Neither Patel or Staton were asked about their identities and how it would influence their leadership.

Voting for the Campus Y Co-Presidents will take place on Tuesday February 7th from 9 am to 5 pm. Voting is restricted to registered members of the Campus Y only. If you have any questions about whether or not you are a registered member, email CampusY.unc@gmail.com

You can learn more about Asha and Nick’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_tJ-HA1DNHXQ1lHSkdLOXV4Q0k/view

You can learn more about Alexander and Courtney’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B322ptORbby1U0VsbzNya3N2V2c/view

Achieving Peace and Unity is Easier Done Than Said

You know what’s annoying? Good intentions.

Well that’s not true, good intentions with problematic consequences are annoying. After the elections results, people with various ties, or lack thereof, to the election had some strong opinions. It seemed like anyone and everyone had something to say. Then came the good intentions of people so tired of seeing people talk negatively about politics on their timelines. There was this rhetoric of “hey everyone let’s focus on promoting peace and unity and not this hateful divisive rhetoric.”

Now let’s break this down. On one hand, yes, we should be able to have civil dialogue and be able to converse about differing opinions in a respectful way. On the other hand, you’re asking people to focus on peace and unity when a man who ran a campaign on the opposite of those things just became our president-elect. See how that doesn’t really work?

So, instead of asking for people to be peaceful and unified from the comfort of your home, how about you get a little uncomfortable. Here are some ways to ACTUALLY promote peace and unity instead of tweeting about it. Be the change you want to see in the world right?

1) Participate in a discussion outside of social media.

Social media is a great place to express ideas and exchange dialogue, but in no way is it the best place. You can’t always get the tone of what someone is saying and it is easy to get on the defensive and misunderstand what people are actually saying. After the election, everyone was talking about it, rightfully so. People are going to need a couple of days to “get over” something that will potentially have a huge effect on their lives. Text, call, email, make plans for coffee, whatever and talk to someone you saw was really vocal about their feelings on the election. Talking to each other outside of the Internet will probably work better for you both.

2) Get involved in an organization that promotes unity.

If you want to talk the talk, you also have to walk to walk. Facilitate or even just participate in a  community discussion. If you don’t have anything to add to the conversation, at least act as a mediator to make sure things to get too heated. And outside of dialogue, get involved in organizations that are committed to fixing these issues in the first place. Peace and unity doesn’t come from simply getting along, it comes from actually understanding each other and the systems in place that create the issues we talk about in the first place.

3) Understand that peace and unity doesn’t always come from peace and unity.

People argue and disagree, that’s okay. Not everyone has to get along all the time. Would it be nice if we did? Yes. But we all know life doesn’t work like that. It’s beneficial for people to disagree and critique each others arguments in order to come up with a solution for everyone. How can we truly solve the problem if we just stop at addressing it and not addressing why people feel it’s a problem?

4) Have a discussion with the intent to seek peace and unity.

The most concerning thing about when people asking for peace and unity is that they are expecting for any conversation where people don’t agree to end up way too confrontational. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and have a conversation where you don’t simply attack every point they bring up. If you go into the conversation wanting to listen, clarify if you have questions, then present your perspective, it will create a healthier way to discuss. Wanting peace and unity isn’t stepping away when people start to get confrontational, it’s redirecting the conversation and calling them out on it when it happens. It’s okay to want peace when discussing, but it’s also okay to walk away from that conversation when it is becoming more harmful than productive.

It’s okay to want peace and unity and those are obviously good traits to have when having a conversation, but we also need to be realistic. When you’re asking for unity are you really asking for people to talk so they can learn from each other? Or are you asking for people to be censored rather than challenge each other’s ideas?

Celebrities Are Taking a Stand Against DAPL

Since April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Various Native American tribes and people have also been showing their support of the protest by sending supplies or traveling to protest themselves.  UNC’s own Carolina Indian Circle created a public service announcement about the pipeline in September.

The protest has also received support and attention from influential allies: celebrities.

Members of the cast of Justice League created a video endorsing Rezpect Our Water, an initiative founded by young members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Pharell Williams have posted on social media about it. Mark Ruffalo tweeted calling out President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to get involved.

Actors Riley Keough and Susan Sarandon went to Washington, DC to protest with tribe members.  Shailene Woodley has made multiple posts on social media protesting the pipeline, posted videos of her at protests in North Dakota, and recently being arrested for protesting.

What does it mean that these celebrities are getting involved? Attention.

Celebrities have thousands, even millions, of followers on multiple social media networks. They can reach an incredibly large amount of people in minutes.  This type of access to publicity is just what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe need.

It is important that celebrities are not only using their platform, but encouraging other leaders and politicians to use theirs as well.  They are encouraging their fans to learn more about the pipeline and get involved with protests.

In 2014, Native Americans made up two percent of the population.  They are a group that is forced to be treated as second class citizens on land that belongs to them and their ancestors.

Plans for the pipeline were made without consulting the Native Americans who lived there. When concerns were made about sacred spaces of land being destroyed, they fell on deaf ears and were ignored.

Centuries ago, land was taken from Native Americans and the justification given was that it would benefit others. Traditions and culture were not seen as valuable as the profit that could be made by exploiting it. Now, in 2016, we are dangerously close to making the same mistake.

Know Your Rights: Dos and Don’ts

Last Thursday, The Black Student Movement and the Campus Y co-hosted an event offering non-official advice for what students should and should not do when interacting with the police.

The event featured a panel consisted of Ada Wilson-Suitt, who currently serves as Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at UNC and previously was a practicing attorney.  The panel also featured Michael Jones and Ariel Smallwood, both second year law students at the UNC School of Law and President and Vice President of Black Law Student Association respectively.

The panelists wanted to make it clear they are not experts, but still gave excellent advice. Here are some of their tips:

1) Download the ACLU app. The app has a built in recording device that records both visual and audio. The app also has a tab titled “Know Your Rights” which details essential rights one should know. Essentially this app is very resourceful/useful and you should definitely get it!

2) Warrants are important. A warrant is absolutely necessary to search anything, your residence or your house. Courts don’t like when police officers search without warrants and anything they find without a warrant isn’t admissible in court, aka it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Take time to read over the warrant and make sure that it has your address on it, not just a general location.

3) Keep communication short and simple. Keep the conversations with law enforcement brief, direct, and only answer questions asked of you. If you are in a situation in which you are  read your rights, the only words you should be saying are “I want to speak to my attorney”.  You don’t have to speak but you should comply.

4) Keep calm and know your rights.  If you are being pulled over and you feel it is unsafe to do so, it is in your rights to put on your hazards and call 911 to notify them that you are pulling over to a protected area. If you’re ever accused of being under the influence you can request a witness be present.

In most situations law enforcement will treat you right, but it is important to know your rights!

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Immigration Awareness Month Photo Campaign Q&A

Arc writer Morgan Howard talked with co-coordinator of the Immigration Awareness Month (IAM) Photo Campaign, Mayela Peralta, to discuss the campaign’s purpose and goal. The campaign started March 1st and will continue until the 31st. Continue reading Immigration Awareness Month Photo Campaign Q&A

How Leadershape Confirmed UNC Was For Me

What Is LeaderShape?

LeaderShape was described to me as something that would challenge me as a leader and a program I would enjoy. The LeaderShape that was described to me was not the LeaderShape I received. This program was everything and more that I had been missing and needed in my life. I met so many incredible people who have beautiful and inspiring visions for this world. I was able to have meaningful conversations and challenge my way of thinking.  I was able to create stronger bonds with the people I had known going into the program, but also leave with new friendships with people that will change my life.  

Okay, no seriously what do I do at LeaderShape?

The program is broken up into six days and each day has a different leadership theme. On the first day you are broken into small groups called family clusters and you get super close especially to these individuals.  Personally, the best part of the program for me was I was given the freedom to dream as big as I wanted to and in result I came up with a new life plan/action goal that truly makes me happy and fulfills my passion.  LeaderShape is a great opportunity because it occurs at a time in your life when you have the resources to accomplish your dreams.  The goal of LeaderShape isn’t to make a leader, but rather embrace the leader you already are and really think about what you can contribute to your community and how to do it.

Why should I do LeaderShape?

You should do Leadershape because it will be an experience that you look back on in life and will be so thankful you were apart of it.  You will start off the week being surrounded by people you probably don’t know, but by the end will be like your family. You will grow as a leader and overall as a person. Leadershape inspires positive change in yourself and I hope its future participants continue to bring that supportive space they were during the program to the outside world because many many MANY more people need it.

But, it’s during my spring break! I don’t want to spend spring break in the woods do I?

As someone who went hiking for the first time EVER two weeks ago, trust me I understand not being one with nature. But the center it takes place at is clean, the food is pretty good, and you spend much of the time indoors and not outdoors. Plus you get to spend your spring break making sixty new friends and discovering your passion. You won’t find that spring break experience anywhere else, trust me.

What was your biggest take-away from the program?

Three years ago I remember being on twitter at 2:00 in the morning tweeting about how I could feel a shift in my life.  Since then, my goal has been striving to be the person I wanted to be. Confident, positive, loving, happy, caring, an activist, and so much more.  If you had asked me if I was the person six days prior to Leadershape I would say, sometimes. Sometimes I am those things, but I’m still working on inner harmony and seeing myself the way others see me. Now if you ask me if I’m that person yet, I would say absolutely. That week renewed my spirit and brought out the best parts of me that usually don’t find their way to the surface. I genuinely laughed more that week than I did in the past year. I’ve grown a lot as a person and have come into my own person since that week, and a large part of that is because of this amazing program.

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Learn more about LeaderShape here

Applications are due 2/1/16

Where Do We Go From Here?

I think we all can agree last week was rough. No – last week was draining, overwhelming and, overall, just awful.  From the death threats to black students at various college campuses, to the terrorists attacks in Paris, to the suicide bombings in Beirut and Lebanon, to the suicide of Demitri Allison on our own campus.  All of those events happened last week, each day was another blow to our emotional and mental states. Each day was another tragedy our world had to deal with and I was left asking myself two questions. Continue reading Where Do We Go From Here?

Campus Y Alumni Reunion

The Campus Y held its first homecoming event in years this past Saturday and it was a huge hit for everyone involved.

Director of Alumni Engagement, Sean Peterson, and his team set out to create an event where alumni would already be on campus and attract them back to the Y.  Peterson explained that there hadn’t been an alumni event on campus since five years ago for 150 year celebration of the Y.

“We wanted alumni who haven’t been here in a while to reconnect with the space and be inspired to come back and come out to future events,” Peterson said. Continue reading Campus Y Alumni Reunion