Western Washington University president Bruce Shepard has become a figure of fun for equating whiteness of the student body with mediocrity.  The story even got some play on Fox News Channel's Red Eye.

The president's logic is more troubling than his choice of words.
It is our internal capacity to change at the rate required that I find myself most thinking about during those 3:00 a.m. staring-at-the-ceiling times.

It begins with our culture.  Lately, I have been hearing the occasional comment that gives me pause; for example, expressing a concern about the Admissions Office letting standards slip.  (Facts are, mean entering high school GPA's have remained relatively constant over the last six years, but dispersion—standard deviation—has increased as we take more students at both the higher and lower end.)

But I want to shout, "get those heads out of the sand."  Unless you want us to choose the path of the much smaller, elite-serving university I earlier rejected, our incoming students are more and more going to be coming from families where parents have not gone to college and where academic preparation will likely not have been as high a priority.

These future students have all the smarts, all the potential, the invaluable active minds driven to change lives.  But they will be testing our ability to perform in new ways.  Part of the cultural change will be to go from bragging about (or worrying about) what we start with to bragging about the levels to which we take our students.
Glass half full: higher education ought to be higher, and students at Western Washington deserve the same intellectual challenges that students in the Ivies get.  Glass half empty: the common schools are still getting away with producing Distressed Material or enabling dysfunctional behavior and excusing it as cultural differences.

Might it not be more effective for Western Washington, or anyplace else, it's attracting students from diverse backgrounds by stopping the patronizing talk and simply challenging the students who enroll?

But Mr Shephard, if a previous statement is still operative, may have drunk too much identity politics Kool-Aid to even consider that option.
We have learned that the campus climate experiences reported by women, by racial and ethnic minorities, and by gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals are different from the campus climate reported by majority counterparts.  Different in unacceptable ways.
Rather than suggest that the Perpetually Aggrieved get busy and study some economics or lab science or higher mathematics, he Blames. America. First.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about in the data per se, in finding that we are a part of a society with resilient sexist, racist, homophobic, and heterocentric forces. The only thing to be embarrassed about when a challenge is documented is to do nothing about it. Just as the hiring data reflect what has to be a campus wide commitment and campus wide action, so too must be efforts to address the campus climate issues. We need the help of everyone on campus in figuring out how to improve and in improving this situation.
Keep placating the Perpetually Aggrieved and the freakazoids, Mr Shepard.  The United States will lose the competition for the "developed talent essential to replace the retiring baby boomers" by default. But the United States will have the most culturally competent underemployed graduates in the world.

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