clock tower

The school year is coming to a close as students graduate, begin internships and move back home for those fleeting three months. Parents will no doubt pester you about what exactly has been going on in Charlotte over the past school year, and you will undoubtedly draw a blank. We've got you covered. Here's looking back on the good times, the bad times and the highlights of the past year:

Gaber begins first year as UNC Charlotte Chancellor

On July 20, Dr. Sharon L. Gaber began her term as UNC Charlotte's fifth chancellor. She is the second woman to lead the institution (after founder Bonnie Cone) and the first woman to serve as chancellor. 

Gaber came to UNC Charlotte at an unprecedented time in higher education as universities deliberated how to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. She was also charged with continuing remembrance and security efforts after the shooting on April 30, 2019, overseeing UNC Charlotte's continuous enrollment and campus growth. During her first year, she appointed an interim diversity and inclusion leader and began a national search for a chief diversity officer. 

Some in-person instruction resumed

On Aug. 23, Chancellor Gaber announced that UNC Charlotte would begin the semester online with plans to reinstate in-person instruction on Oct. 1. Move-in to residence halls was delayed until Sept. 26 except for international students, RAs and other students with extenuating circumstances. 

The announcement came after 23 members of UNC Charlotte's public health faculty sent a letter to Chancellor Gaber urging her to begin the semester online. At the time, the University reported only four cases of COVID-19 on its main campus. No students in the UNC System were required to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to campus, and universities like UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State began reporting clusters of cases days after their semesters began. 

A Niner Times survey found that nearly 70% of the 280 respondents preferred an entirely remote semester while about 30% wanted to return to in-person courses. 

As tens of thousands of students returned to UNC campuses, faculty and staff sued the UNC System over unsafe working conditions. Lead plaintiffs included members of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union (UE Local 150) and the North Carolina American Association of University Professors. A few days before remote classes began at UNC Charlotte, campus workers and North Carolina Public Service Workers Union members gathered outside of Cato Hall to deliver a list of demands to Chancellor Gaber. Among them were daily N95 masks and symptom screening, no 3 a.m. shifts and at least 25% additional hazard pay.

Students voted early at Belk Gym 

North Carolina voter participation was at 71.2% in the November 2020 election, breaking a 40-year record set in 2008. Young voters especially turned out at record-setting rates. Many people voted early due to COVID-19, and UNC Charlotte hosted an early voting site at Belk Gym.

North Carolina was one of the last states to certify its election results. The battleground state supported Donald Trump, although Joe Biden ultimately secured the presidency. Senator Thom Tillis, R, was selected for a second term, giving Republicans 49 senators. N.C. sent five Democrats and eight Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives, including Alma Adams, D, from Mecklenburg County's district. Nationally, Democrats maintained a majority in the U.S. House. 

UNC Charlotte became the only UNC institution to have a spring break 

In keeping with the abnormalities of the past year, UNC Charlotte's "spring" break occurred only three weeks into the spring 2021 semester. Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber announced on Jan. 11 that the break would be moved from late March to Feb. 8-12, making UNC Charlotte the only university in the UNC System observing a spring break. The decision was made in deference to advice from the Student Government Association (SGA) and Mecklenburg County health officials. UNC Charlotte also scrapped its earlier plans to move classes online after the late March break. Instead, the semester began remotely and returned to some in-person instruction on Feb. 22.

Beginning of random mitigation testing

In late February, UNC Charlotte began mitigation testing of about 8,000 students and staff who returned to campus in some capacity. Each Wednesday, an email was sent out to a subset of that group indicating they had been selected for a COVID-19 test. Exceptions were granted for participants who couldn't participate in random mitigation testing due to religious or medical purposes. 

The University also expanded wastewater testing to include frequented areas on campus and continued testing the residence halls. 

Lawsuit alleges that Department of History professor sexually assaulted or harassed four female students

In March, a female UNC Charlotte student sued the University after religion historian Robert McEachnie allegedly initiated sexual intercourse with her during a summer study abroad trip to Jerusalem. The lawsuit also mentioned a second student who filed a complaint in July 2017 claiming that McEachnie had inappropriately touched and propositioned her on the same trip.

The lawsuit claims that one or more of McEachnie's superiors were aware in 2017 of his possible sexual misbehavior with multiple students on the trip that summer but did not act. Both students reported the incidents–one in 2017 and the other in 2019. McEachnie was demoted from senior lecturer to lecturer after the second report and banned from taking students on university-sponsored study abroad trips, among other punishments. 

Recently, the Charlotte Observer has reported that the lawsuit has since been amended to include two more female students allegedly harassed by McEachnie on the 2018 and 2019 trips.

Long-awaited Marriott hotel and conference center welcomes first guests

After nearly 30 years of planning and construction, UNC Charlotte's Marriott Hotel hosted its grand opening on March 31. In 2018, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Emeritus Phil Dubois persuaded the Charlotte City Council to invest $8 million of tourism taxes towards building the $87 million facility. Construction began around January 2019 and was planned to be finished by September 2020, but was delayed several months due to issues associated with COVID-19.  

The 226-room Marriott is twice the size of conference facilities at similar-sized hotels, boasting a 24,000-square-foot conference center and a 132-space parking deck. The UNC Charlotte Foundation funded $76 million into the project, covering the majority of the costs. 

New student body president and vice president begin tenure 

On April 8, Richard "Dick" Beekman and Gabi Hitchcock were confirmed as the student body president and vice president for the 2021-2022 academic school year. Beekman previously served as president pro tempore of the Student Senate, and Hitchcock served as committee chair for the Internal Affairs Committee. Out of the 1,493 votes cast, Beekman-Hitchock received 977, while their rival campaign, Williams-Perez, received 539.

At their first official SGA meeting on April 15, Beekman and Hitchcock already approved two acts, the Special Election Authorization Act I and the Safety Appreciation Act. 

Second anniversary of April 30

Classes were canceled on April 30, 2021, as the University held virtual and in-person activities to honor the two-year anniversary of the campus shooting that took the lives of two students and injured four others. 

The Day of Remembrance schedule included activities to promote healing through mental health, physical activity, community discussion and reflection. The events began at 9 a.m. and lasted until 6 p.m. There was a Virtual Remembrance Program in the Jerry Richardson Stadium that evening with remarks from administrators, student leaders and student performers. 

UNC Charlotte administers almost 3,000 vaccines

Over the course of the spring 2021 semester, UNC Charlotte hosted three vaccination clinics. Two provided the Johnson and Johnson vaccine–one on March 31 and another on April 12. The third clinic was held on April 20 and offered the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered in an on-campus clinic on May 11. 

According to Director of Communications for the Division of Business Affairs Christy Jackson, the University has administered almost 3,000 vaccines to date. As of April 29, roughly 5,000 students have completed the University's survey, indicating they have been inoculated against the virus. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.