In a commencement speech years ago, Shepard said, “If in decades ahead, we are as White as we are today, we will have failed as a university.”
Shepard added to his words with a blog post, telling detractors that “my word choice was intended to be provocative. Lately, I have been noticing, in our trade press, with increasing frequency and stridency, warnings much the same as those I was issuing six years ago.”
But some detractors believe that Shepard’s statements are “insensitive, “I think he’s being very insensitive to how people are perceived based on the color of their skin,” said Caleb Bonham, editor-in-chief of campusreform.org, a watchdog media group for conservative students.
“(Shepard) actually ended up creating a more divisive atmosphere by really attacking those based solely on the color of their skin,” Bonham added. Bonham claims he has received multiple calls, e-mails, and tweets from many students and parents angry at Shepard’s words.
However, Shepard refuses to budge, “I needed to provoke some attention,” he said. “The word White is a lightning rod for people’s feelings. It’s really important to understand the issue facing all of American higher education, and that is, our country is changing.”
He also noted that less diversity could hit the college in its pockets. “I’m going to bring it down to where we live. We need to attract numbers of students (diverse or otherwise) sufficient to pay our bills. Over 80 percent of our operating budget is made up of salaries – yours and mine. With tuition now making up 70 percent of our costs of instruction, fewer students mean fewer of us.”
Though Shepard claims he has received sharp criticism, including hate language and racial slurs, he welcomes debate on the matter.