The story was updated on Nov. 3 with a statement from Title IX Coordinator, Shea Browning at the end of the story.
WCU hosted an open discussion on sexual relationships, sexual assault and gender-based discrimination on campus last week. Some students were not happy with how the administration is handling sexual assault and WCJ witnessed that first hand.
On Oct. 26 in the Blue Ridge conference room, five WCU administrators including Clery Act Coordinator, Bruce Barker, Chief Compliance Officer, J. Wesley Chancey, Intercultural Affairs Assistant Director, Niki Paganelli, Support Services Sergeant, Jacob Deal and Title IX Coordinator, Shea Browning, disscussed what WCU is doing to help students. Around 30 students attended the event.
The event concluded in a confrontation between Title IX Coordinator, Shea Browning and WCU student Venice Mason.
During the event, Mason was asking a lot of tough questions to the board – questions that often disputed what the administrators were saying happens during a sexual assault or harassment cases on WCU’s campus. For example, she said that WCU’s legal team showed up to a case dealing with a sexual assault on campus at the Jackson County Courthouse on the perpetrator’s behalf (she did not disclose when that happened). When Mason addressed this issue to the board during the discussion, the board asked to speak with her one on one after the discussion was over.
Mason also disputed how WCU teaches students about sexual assault. WCU freshmen have to take an online course called “Haven.” According to their website, Haven is “the premier online program addressing the critical issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment among students, faculty and staff.” Paganelli, said that this course helps students learn about sexual assaults. Mason disputed the program, saying it is very intense for survivors of sexual assaults to have to go through.
At the end of the event, when the students left, Mason spoke to administrators about the case of her friend who was sexually assaulted on WCU campus. That is when shouting started. Mason was giving more details about the case and Browning kept saying that WCU legal team was never defending an accused in a sexual assault case. He went so far to call her a liar and that he does not “give a s**t” about her personal issues.”
When Mason started crying the Assistant Director of Student Community Ethics, Bob Alston, came and explained that he was the one giving her the information and that his understanding was that WCU team was in court for that particular case. Browning eventually apologized to Mason for the way he spoke to her.
“I wanted to speak with the staff that are responsible for campus safety and sexual violence prevention education in an open public forum so that I could learn more about the process in a place that was a safe place for everybody,” Mason said.
She left crying and saying that she should have never attended the event.
Title IX Coordinator, Shea Browning in an email message on Nov. 2 said that his “interaction with the student after the discussion, has been mischaracterized as an argument.”
“I was attempting to respond to several inaccurate allegations being made against the University; namely, accusations that WCU attorneys have provided legal advice to accused perpetrators. At this time, I uttered an unfortunate common vulgarity. I apologized immediately and deeply regret my word choice,” wrote Browning in an email to the WCJ editor, Bradley Lucore.