Western Carolina University

Cawthorn pointedly defies laws banning knives on school property

Oct 11, 2021
David Wheeler

For the second time in as many months, Rep. Madison Cawthorn faces a potential criminal complaint for carrying a weapon — in the latest incident, a “combat” automatic knife similar to a switchblade — in a public school building.  

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University is looking for feedback as the school updates its future land use plan. 

This year’s student population at Western Carolina University surpassed the predictions which estimated there would be just over 11,000 students in the year 2023. Mike Beyers is chief financial officer of the school.

“As we work on this update we don’t plan to project the growth to be quite as great over last 8 years. We expect it to slow a bit,” said Beyers.  

Matt Bush

On August 17th, flash floods caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred left six people dead in Haywood County, and devastated homes and businesses there and in neighboring Buncombe and Transylvania Counties.  While the analysis is ongoing of what caused such rapid and destructive flooding in these tight spaces, one reason is inescapable - climate change.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Despite recent severe weather, this year’s fall leaf forecast for Western North Carolina is looking bright. Here’s when colors will be at their peak:

The fall colors of red, orange and yellow will be best at high elevation in mid-October says Professor Beverly Collins, who teaches biology at Western Carolina University.

“I think our color change at Cullowhee, which will be at about 2,000 ft will be at about end of October,”  said Collins.  

Lilly Knoepp/BPR News

Three states box in Western North Carolina - Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.  All three responded to the pandemic much differently than North Carolina did.  BPR reports on a study which examined which approach worked better.

COVID restrictions – even now almost 15 months later - look very different across Western North Carolina’s borders.

Sean Mulholland is a professor of Economics at Western Carolina University. He notes that Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper put more COVID restrictions in place than his Republican counterparts in neighboring states.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

During Western Carolina University’s commencement ceremony, the university recognized the history of the Cherokee with an official land acknowledgement for the first time.

Lilly Knoepp

Today, Western Carolina University Faculty Senate presented the Board of Trustees with a request: they need a salary increase.

“They asked a lot of questions so that was super positive,” said Kadance Otto, chair of the Faculty Senate.

Otto said faculty hasn’t received seen their pay increase in line with cost-of-living since 2008.

“To me, a raise is something above the cost of living because that is something that is more than the average rate of inflation. So at bare minimum we are simply asking to keep up with inflation,” said Otto.

Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

As more people get vaccinated in North Carolina, more places are opening to administer the shots.  BPR looks at Western Carolina University’s on-campus clinic.

The clinic, located at the school’s Health & Human Services building, opened to the public this week. This is after administering over 600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in February to help clear Jackson County Department of Public Health’s waiting list.

“Our website and call center went live yesterday around 2 p.m.”  

Courtesy of Ann Miller Woodford

  Here’s part one of BPR’s features on Ann Miller Woodford.

Earlier this week, we profiled local historian Ann Miller Woodford, who published “When All God’s Children Get Together.”  It’s about the history of the Black communities of Western North Carolina.

In this episode of BPR News Presents: The Porch, we talk with  -

Schuylar Shayne Photography

A project to document the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Western North Carolina is expanding.

The LGBTQ+ Oral History Archive was founded at UNC Asheville in 2019 in partnership with the Blue Ridge Pride Center. Now the project is expanding to Western Carolina University, says Travis Rountree.

Lexi Yauch

The holidays are traditionally box office bonanzas for theaters, musical artists and anyone who can stage a version of “The Nutcracker.” But with the pandemic sidelining almost everyone’s plans, two Western North Carolina productions are finding unique ways to carry on.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has established a Cherokee Studies Scholarship in honor of an Eastern Band leader and scholar.

Nate Hadley/WCJ

More than 1 million North Carolinians have voted during the first five days of early voting in the state.  That’s more than 14 percent of all registered voters in the state.

BPR checked in on the early voting site on campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee:

Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis, candidates for North Carolina's 11th Congressional district seat left vacant by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have both agreed to appear at a two-day joint forum hosted by three of the district’s largest media outlets, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Smoky Mountain News, and Mountain Xpress.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Seventeen residents of Harrill Hall at Western Carolina University have tested positive for COVID-19. The cluster is the first during the fall semester, according to Jackson County Public Health.

“We expected there to be cases related to our campus as more than 9,000 students returned for residential in-person instruction this fall,” says Kelli R. Brown, WCU chancellor in a press release. “We have extensive protocols in place and will continue to execute our quarantine and isolation procedures.”

Resúmenes para la semana del 24 de agosto

Aug 27, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Racismo en la Universidad


La universidad Western Carolina University ha condenado abiertamente la realización y publicación de videos con contenido racista y de supremacía blanca. Estos videos fueron compartidos públicamente en las redes sociales de Snapchat y Twitter el sábado pasado. Como respuesta a estos videos realizados por alumnos de la universidad, el Decano Kelli Brown publicó otro video explicando que los comentarios e insultos realizados por los estudiantes no reflejan el espíritu del establecimiento educacional. 

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Nearly 400 people marched on the campus of Western Carolina University Wednesday afternoon in response to racist videos featuring students that were posted to social media last weekend.  Those students are no longer enrolled at Western Carolina and will not return. 

Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

A lawsuit has been filed against the UNC System to halt the start of classes statewide. The lawsuit lists all UNC System schools including Western Carolina University.

Associate Professor Jack Summers teaches chemistry at Western Carolina University. He’s one of the lawsuit plaintiffs because he says COVID-19 makes it impossible to have a safe work environment on campus.  

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Western Carolina University Faculty Senate narrowly approved a resolution calling for all classes to go online when the fall semester starts next week.  Dr. Yancey Gulley, an associate professor in higher education and student affairs programs at the school, introduced the resolution. 

He says the decision on whether classes should be online or in-person lies with the statewide UNC System.

Photo by Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

Western Carolina Faculty Senate will vote on Monday for a resolution asking the university to be 100 percent online because of COVID-19.  Chair of Faculty Senate Kadence Otto says the emergency meeting was called in order to bring up the resolution before the semester starts – even though it won’t send students home.

“Even if the resolution passes nothing is going to change because the resolution is simply the voice of the faculty,” says Otto. The vote will take place via Zoom. 

Photo by Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University


The first day of class for most UNC System schools is August 17. BPR spoke with a Western Carolina University student who already contracted COVID-19 as school officials set out new policies to address the pandemic.

Miranda Curtis is from Murphy. She’s a hospitality and tourism management major at Western Carolina University. Right now she’s rethinking that career path... 

“I mean it seemed like a good major before all of this started,” says Curtis, who is 23-years-old.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University students will be back on campus this weekend.


Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Sam Miller expects about 400 students will move into the residence halls on Saturday. Students have signed up for specific times to remain socially distant.  


In total, about 3,500 students will be living in the dorms when classes start on August 17. Miller says this is down from about 4,000 last year for a variety of reasons. 


Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Western Carolina University is preparing for next month’s fall semester, which will have a mix of in-person classes and online instruction. 


Western Carolina University has 15 different work groups and task forces finalizing the details of the return to school next month.  Cory Causby is the associate vice chancellor of human resources. 


Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has removed the name of former North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator Clyde Hoey from its auditorium on campus.  

Lilly Knoepp

(Update 4/23) 

Jackson County Public Health Department has announced that 3 additonal people working on the Apodaca Science Building at Western Carolina University’s campus have tested postitive for COVID-19. This brings the total to four positive cases on the work site. 

Lilly Knoepp

Western Carolina University is keeping its campus open while transitioning classes online. BPR spoke to a university official about what students should do at this time.  

On a Thursday morning the Cullowhee campus is mostly empty because of spring break. 

That break has now been extended through March 23. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sam Miller says over a hundred students are on campus but all will need to weigh their options to figure out what is best for them: 

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina Chancellor Kelli Brown sent out a notice on Wednesday evening in alignment with a UNC system decision to move all students online and out of the classroom. 


WCU is extending its official spring break by an additional week until Monday, March 23. 


Matt Peiken | BPR News

It’s a Monday afternoon, and John West is rehearsing a wind and brass ensemble at Western Carolina University. West had already been teaching here about 15 years when most of these students were born.

“Clarinet section, can you give me more on those 16th notes there?” he asks his students. “Just a little early on that last leg. Deee-dahh, da-da-deee-dahhh. Wait for that, alright?”

On the eve of his retirement, after 35 years at the university, West said his job has evolved beyond teaching and conducting. West takes the podium a final time March 28 in a concert in the university’s Coulter Building.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has named a former Catamount baseball player as the school’s new athletic director.  Alex Gary will now oversee the Western Carolina athletic department which fields teams in 16 sports.