By Asia Fields
A student who had photos taken of him while using a Wilson Library restroom in June 2017 says he’s dissatisfied with Western’s lack of communication with students about the incident and feels the perpetrator received a lenient sanction.
Western found the perpetrator, Christopher Jarod Weathersby, 20, responsible for sexual misconduct on Dec. 29, 2017. Weathersby was suspended through January 7, 2019 or until the victim graduates, whichever is longer, according to disciplinary records.
Weathersby pleaded guilty to voyeurism in the second degree, a gross misdemeanor, on Dec. 20, 2017 for the incident. He was sentenced to 364 days and spent 30 days under home monitoring with the rest suspended, but did not have to register as a sex offender, according to court records.
The victim doesn’t think Western’s discipline was severe enough.
“I just don’t see why it’s so hard to expel someone who’s convicted of a sexual crime on campus…” the victim said. “What else does someone have to do to get expelled?”
The victim also said the punishment seems light considering Weathersby told University Police he had taken photos of students in campus restrooms on two previous occasions that school year and masturbated to those photos, according to records from the Office of Student Life.
The victim said it doesn’t make sense that his friend who was dismissed from Western for bad grades had to leave school for the same amount of time as Weathersby.
The AS Review does not identify victims of sex crimes without their consent.
Have you experienced sexual assault or violence? Find free, confidential support and reporting options here.
When Paul Cocke, director of communications and marketing, was asked if the other two incidents were taken into account when determining the sanction, he said he had no comment.
Cocke said Western doesn’t comment on individual student conduct situations, but that the reporting student’s desired outcome is a factor when conduct officers make disciplinary decisions.
The victim said he told the Office of Student Life his desired outcome was expulsion, but he knew it wasn’t likely given how Western has handled other sexual misconduct cases. He told the office he at least didn’t want to be at Western with Weathersby.
“[Western officials] say there’s a zero tolerance policy but that’s a lie,” the victim said. “A zero tolerance policy is that someone who is convicted of a sexually-related crime should be expelled.”
It took Western more than six months to determine a sanction. During this time, Weathersby said he took an online course from Western, but did not attend classes on-campus due to a no-contact order from the victim.
The victim said Western never explained why the process was taking so long, and at the time, he assumed that’s just how long the process took.
According to Western’s procedure for handling complaints, taking in, investigating and determining sanction are supposed to take no more than 90 days total, but the vice provost can extend this.
Cocke said he would not comment on why a case might take six months because that deals with the specifics of a student conduct case.
In an interview with the AS Review, Weathersby said he’s grown and doesn’t want people to just associate him with what he did, as he hopes to return to Western. He has been attending Whatcom Community College during his suspension.
He said he recognizes his actions made the victim feel unsafe, as well as others who heard about it, especially as other voyeurism incidents were occuring around campus at the time.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty this is something I will never do again,” he said.
Weathersby said he’s been in therapy since August. While he can’t pinpoint exactly what led to his actions, he said therapy has shown him how to cope with stress and his mental health, which he said were contributing factors.
At a meeting in December, Weathersby told the Office of Student Life he was in sex offender-specific psychotherapy, which he’s required to complete before he reapplies, according to disciplinary records. He must also write a paper discussing what he’s learned.
The victim said while he’s glad Weathersby has been in therapy, the punishment still wasn’t severe enough.
After the incident, the victim said it took a while before he felt comfortable using public restrooms again. He said the nature of voyeurism is that victims don’t know the perpetrator. While in this case, the voyeur was caught, he said Weathersby shouldn’t be allowed back on campus so soon, especially because his other victims may still be on campus then.
Weathersby said he understands if students are afraid and uncomfortable with him returning to Western, but he said he feels ready to return.
“If someone has spent the time and done the work to learn from their mistake, keeping them out of the community they need to be in to solidify their stability is not the best way for them to learn how to move on from their mistake,” Weathersby said.
However, the victim said he doesn’t think what happened can be called a mistake, as Weathersby knew what he was doing was wrong.
“Some mistakes are not forgivable or should be punished more severely than others and I think this is one of those,” the victim said. “It’s an inconvenience for him to be out of school for a year and a half, it’s not a punishment. It’s a minor inconvenience. Especially since he admitted to doing it to two other people.”
The victim said he was upset Weathersby asked to be allowed back on campus in September 2017, despite the no contact order. The motion was denied by the court, according to court records.
When asked why he tried to do this knowing the victim would still be on campus, Weathersby told the Review he didn’t expect to be able to return early, but was guided to by therapists and his lawyer at that time. He said he wanted to see if it was a possibility to have space between him and the victim and still attend Western.
The victim said this shows he doesn’t seem to understand the full scope of what he did.
He also said Western hasn’t done enough to inform other students about what Weathersby did.
A Western Alert was sent the day of the incident noting the suspect was arrested, Cocke said in an email. The alert did not name Weathersby.
“The Western Alert is fine,” the victim said. “But what’s the point of Western Alerts if you’re not going to update Western about the outcome of the case and if you’re embarrassed of the outcome of the case and you don’t want people to question the punishment?”
The victim said Western should have updated campus with the name of the student once he was charged.
He said if not for a Bellingham Herald article about Weathersby being charged, there wouldn’t be a record of what he did, which he thinks students have the right to know about if Weathersby will be returning again.
Western does not release the names of students found to have violated the student conduct code for sexual misconduct, citing federal privacy law, or FERPA. However, FERPA contains a provision allowing schools to release the final results of disciplinary procedures (including the name of the perpetrator) for violent offenses or non-forcible sex offenses, if the institution finds that the student responsible.
This story came around after the victim contacted us via an anonymous form. If you would like to share your story anonymously you can here.
Updated 4/21 at 3:04 p.m. to add photos. Updated at 3:18 p.m. to add resources and a link to our anonymous form. Updated 4:55 p.m. to move deck head to headline.