As we enter summer quarter 2015, one news topic has been on everyone’s mind: what will happen when Western President Bruce Shepard retires at the close of the 2015-2016 academic year and what will his legacy at Western be?
Shepard became Western’s 13th president on September 1, 2008, and since taking the position has done quite a bit. He was influential in transitioning the university’s engineering technology programs to full-fledged engineering programs as well as expanding Western’s outreach to include the Kitsap Peninsula. One of the things that students may not recognize is how influential Shepard has been in extending partnerships with other universities located around the world.
Shepard has also been involved with the creation and overall growth of Compass2Campus, an award-winning program founded by his wife, Cyndie Shepard, that helps encourage youngsters to stay in school and attend higher education.
However, despite all the positive things that Shepard has helped bring to Western, the aspects that he may be remembered for could be his comments on diversity and the issue of divestment from fossil fuels.
Shepard’s comments, “if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university,” made during a 2012 convocation speech and later in his personal blog were largely publicized and blasted by conservative bloggers as racially insensitive based on his use of the word “white.” Shepard stood behind his comments, unapologetic, and we the students rallied behind him leading to the student-organized “Day of Action: ‘Diversity Is’” rally on campus in which 700 students attended in Spring 2014.
Shepard has also come under scrutiny for his support of the Western Washington University Foundation’s stance on divestment. This has led to various actions, including an organized campout located outside of Shepard’s office in Old Main. The protest began at noon on Wednesday, June 3, and continued until noon on Thursday, June 4. Although the protest was organized against Shepard and the Western Foundation, Shepard still took the time to have several pizzas delivered to the protesting students.
So how should we remember Shepard? For his support of the Western Foundation’s stances on divestment and his views on diversity? Or should we remember him for advocating on behalf of Western during the 2008 recession, broadening campus outreach and extending Western partnerships with universities in China, South Korea and Mongolia? We all have our own opinions on Shepard, and only time will tell how he will truly be remembered 10, 15 or 50 years down the line. Regardless, we believe he has certainly made an impact on Western, and we will be interested in seeing the impact made by the next university president as well.
The editorial board is composed of Miles Barnes, Stephanie Villiers and Alex Bartick.