Western Washington University (WWU) President Bruce Shepard is under fire for his recent comments on improving diversity at the college.
Shepard, who’s called the lack of diversity on campuses across the country a “national crisis,” explained in a 2012 convocation speech, “…If in decades ahead, we are as White as we are today, we will have failed as a university.”
It’s an idea he has continued to discuss since becoming university president six years ago. Recently, he took his message directly to students in a questionnaire, asking, “How do we make sure that in future years ‘we are not as White as we are today?'”
Many Conservatives have lambasted Shepard, claiming his comments are offensive and anti-White.
Caleb Bonham, editor of campusreform.org, an organization for Conservative college students said, “I think he’s being very insensitive to how people are perceived based on the color of their skin.”
And Lars Larson, a Conservative talk radio host, called Shepard’s view racist. “I’m not surprised when liberal universities take these kind of ridiculous, bigoted, racist positions.”
Three-quarters of the students at WWU and over 80% of its staff are White, a fact that isn’t lost on many of its students.
“One of the first weeks that I was here on campus, I was just walking through Red Square, and I was kind of just noticing that it felt White,” WWU student Alexis Burton said. “Like, there were people missing.”
Despite the uproar, which has included several threats, Shepard is not backing down from his position.
“My role as a leader is to ask questions that take people outside of their zones of comfort,” he explained. “I needed to provoke attention to the changing demography of our state, and when you use words like ‘White,’ that does get people’s attention.”
Although race does not factor into admission decisions at WWU, Shepard said universities across the nation have to work harder to ensure campuses look like the rest of America.
“How do we respond to the changing character and nature of our nation, the enormous potential that’s there that we have not tapped? That’s really the issue we face.”