“That was a big deal,” Bass said. "It was like you were living on a desert island and somebody had sent you a message in a bottle.”
A little alternative, a little edgy
Anne Mueller, a 1992 graduate, said she remembers Chapel Hill and Carrboro as having a unique music scene in the ‘90s. Mueller said the band Hootie & the Blowfish, before reaching its peak popularity, played at fraternity parties and Cat’s Cradle often. She said that students were especially fond of local, independent bands in the area. Mueller said these bands were quintessentially ‘90s — edgy and alternative.
Mueller said women’s fashion was unique in the ‘90s. Women often wore men’s Levi’s at the hips, white V-neck tees and hair bows. Westbrook said he remembers the grunge style characteristic of the ‘90s, and Bass said in the early ‘90s, women would use a curling iron on their bangs to achieve a large, curled hairstyle.
Beginning to embrace
In 1988, the Black Cultural Center was housed in the Student Union. Starting in the early ‘90s, students began to call for a freestanding Black Cultural Center. This movement culminated in a rally at the Smith Center featuring Spike Lee.
Nicholas Graham, University archivist, said this demonstration of student activism led to eventual building of the Sonja Hayes Stone Center for Black Culture and History in 2001. Mueller said this activism demonstrated how the ‘90s aimed to embrace and appreciate different cultures.
In 1991 and 1992, Duke won the National Championship, but in 1993, Franklin Street was overwhelmed with students and fans as UNC finally sealed the title after beating Michigan. Even in the bad weather of that 1993 night, Westbrook will never forget the thrill of participating in the tradition of rushing Franklin Street. Westbrook remembers furniture burning in the street and blue paint everywhere. The next day, he said many professors cancelled classes, letting students enjoy their celebrations.
In 1995, Michael Hooker was appointed to the position of chancellor of UNC. In 1999, Hooker passed away, only four years into his tenure. Erica Perel, a 1998 graduate and general manager of The Daily Tar Heel, said Hooker was responsible for many of the policies and programs many students at UNC take for granted today.
Hooker led an Intellectual Climate Task Force, which Perel said helped diminish UNC’s reputation as mainly a party school and remake the school to be considered more serious. Perel said one of the major outcomes of this task force was first-year seminars, a program many current and future students have benefitted from. Hooker also started the Carolina Computing Initiative, or CCI to most students, in 1997, which aimed to provide all students with access to a personal computer.
Graham said Hooker was an extremely popular figure during his four years of leadership.
“I remember him crowd-surfing at basketball games,” Graham said. “So it was something we couldn’t picture any previous chancellors or subsequent chancellor doing.”
In 1997, legendary men's basketball coach Dean Smith retired. Smith led UNC to two national titles, one in 1982 and one in 1993. Greg Louer, a 2000 graduate, said he enjoyed watching UNC reach three Final Four games in his time at UNC and that the announcement of Smith’s retirement came as a shock to him. Smith’s legacy lives on as the namesake of the Smith Center, home to UNC basketball.
Tragedy turned policy change
On Jan. 25, 1995, Wendel Williamson, a UNC law student, fired a gun on Henderson Street, killing a UNC student and a Chapel Hill resident. Williamson was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Perel said this event changed the way the school thought about safety and security.
One year later, in 1996, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house burned down, and five students died in the fire. Perel said this tragedy turned into a catalyst for major policy change. After this event, there was major push from Chapel Hill to have sprinklers installed in Greek houses. Perel said that the events were tragedies for the school, but sparked big changes at UNC — ones that students today often take for granted.