Fox News contributor Todd Starnes accused Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard of advocating for “ethnic cleansing” at the school after the official made a public statement calling for a more diverse student body.
“I wish Western Washington all the best as they begin their ethnic cleansing,” Starnes said in audio posted by Right Wing Watch on Thursday. “But I do wonder if President Shepard is the right guy to lead the charge — seeing how he’s a paleface.”
Starnes joined other conservative outlets in criticizing Shepard for saying during his September 2013 convocation speech “If, in the decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university.”
At the time, Shepard also noted that 26 percent of the school’s next entering student body comes from communities of color, and that the school continues to make “progress, slow but progress nonetheless, in the absolutely essential diversification of our faculty and staff.”
That statistic would mark a 5 percent jump in diversity compared to the Fall 2012 incoming class, and a 23 percent increase since 1980.
The school has also released an online questionnaire concerning efforts to increase student diversity, with one of the questions reading, “How do we make sure that in future years ‘we are not as white as we are today?'”
Starnes, however, claimed that Shepard used his speech to “start a war on diversity.” And Caleb Bonham, editor-in-chief of the conservative college news site Campus Reform, called Shepard’s remarks “crass.”
“I think he’s being very insensitive to how people are perceived based on the color of their skin,” Bonham told KOMO-TV. “It’s wrong when you do it, no matter what the color of the skin is.”
Shepard told KOMO he meant his statement to be provocative.
“The word ‘white’ is a lightning rod for people’s feelings,” he said. “It’s really important to understand the issue that’s facing all of American higher education and that is, our country is changing.”
Watch KOMO’s report, as aired on Wednesday, below.