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BELLINGHAM — Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard says he’s being deliberately provocative when he says the university is too white.

The lack of diversity on college campuses is a national crisis, he says.

His comments have attracted widespread attention, KOMO reported Wednesday.

Most of the email and calls he receives on the issue support diversity, but some critics use hate language and racial epithets, said Shepard, who is white.

In a convocation speech, referring to the racial makeup of the university, Shepard said, “ … if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university.” He made a similar comment in a blog posting.

On the university’s website, he posed the question: “How do we make sure that in future years we are not as white as we are today?”

Conservative blogs, publications and commentators have picked up on the story on, said Caleb Bonham, editor-in-chief of the media organization for conservative college students.

“I think he’s being very insensitive to how people are perceived based on the color of their skin,” Bonham said.

Shepard makes no apologies.

“I needed to provoke some attention,” he said. “It’s really important to understand the issue facing all of American higher education and that is, our country is changing.”

WWU must attract minority students to remain competitive, economically healthy, and because it’s the right thing to do, Shepard said.

Shepard says he welcomes a vigorous and respectful debate on the issue of diversity.

The university in Bellingham has about 15,000 students.