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WCU Chancellor Sworn In During Opening Assemby

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University
N.C. Chief District Court Judge Samantha Cabe, a Western Carolina University alumna, administers the oath of office to Chancellor Kelli R. Brown with assistance from husband Dennis Brown.

After nearly five months of COVID-19 delays, Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli Brown was sworn into office today.

N.C. Chief District Court Judge Samantha Cabe administered the oath of office as part of Opening Assembly, an annual gathering to kick off the new academic year. Because of physical distancing and crowd size limitations, this year’s event was streamed live from the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

During the assembly, Brown outlined her three top priorities: academic integrity and quality, economic development, and diversity and inclusive excellence.

“But I know that we will get through this, together. I know this because we are each committed to our moral obligation to carry through the mission of this institution, to ‘Honor our Promise’ to you, our students and to the members of our mountain communities,” says Brown in a press release from Western Carolina.

In her remarks on diversity, Brown charged faculty and staff to identify areas in which the university can do more to encourage conversations around diversity and ensure equity on campus. She also explained the need to eliminate internal procedures that perpetuate inequality.

“The horrific events earlier this year involving George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others have provided a tipping point in our country’s unwillingness to address the very real inequalities faced by black, indigenous and people of color,” says Brown in a press release.

She said that the university's Chief Diversity Officer will convene a panel to establish specific benchmarks and strategies for the future.  

Finally, Brown reminded students to follow COVID-19 guidelines and keep the community safe.

“When walking across campus to class, wear your facing covering. No pickup basketball games, no pool parties, no large gatherings in rooms," says Brown in a press release. "And when I say ‘wear your face covering,’ I mean covering your nose and mouth. I know you can do it as I have seen you do it this past week and you have told me you will do it to stay here.” 

Classes at the university start on August 17 with hybrid instruction that feature both online and face-to-face instruction. Faculty and staff have voiced concerns about the fall semester. Faculty are also part of pending litigation to halt classes. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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