Western Washington University: The surprising new right-wing target

Northern California in the late 20th century wasn’t a nesting ground for diversity. In fact, most people in the all-white neighborhood Bruce Shepard grew up in reacted downright negatively toward it.

He remembers when the first Italian family moved in, and “For Sale” signs cropped up on the lawns of some nearby homes. Then the first Japanese family. More signs.

Each time new neighbors moved in, Shepard’s father marched him and his brother across the street or down the block to shake hands and extend a warm welcome.

The Western Washington University president said that he was raised to promote diversity in his community. It’s a mission he has carried with him throughout his jobs in higher education and a goal he believes Western’s students and faculty support. Since he started at Western in 2008, he has repeatedly asked what the Bellingham, Wash. liberal arts university can do to make sure that, in future years, Western is not as white as it is today.

Most recently, he asked the question again in a March 18 post on Western Today, the school’s online communications publication. The title: “Six questions on the future of Western.”

The question itself, however, isn’t what made national morning news last week or finally got the majority of Western students — and more than a few others not affiliated with the university — talking about Western’s diversity goals.

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Le reflects on time as ASVP before rare resignation

Students to vote in first ASVP special election since 1995

The office of Western Washington University’s Associated Students Vice President for Business and Operations is vacant. The next position holder will be determined by an upcoming special election.

Previous position-holder Hung Le’s last day in office was Monday, Jan. 6, the day before Western’s winter quarter began. He formally announced his resignation in an email sent to all AS staff Thursday afternoon, Dec. 12 — the day before the end of Western’s fall-quarter finals week. Students will vote on the new ASVP for business and operations during a special election Jan. 27-31. Students can pick up candidate packets from Viking Union Room 504. Completed candidate packets are due by 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16.

Le did not wish to speak about his resignation immediately, but later agreed to answer questions for The Western Front via email. He declined to disclose why he resigned beyond “personal reasons.”

“[The reason] is not related to my job at the Associated Students,” Le said.

Le is not the first AS employee to resign this academic year, but as a Board member, his resignation is especially unusual.

Four to five AS employees have resigned in each of the past four years due to personal reasons or other employment opportunities, AS Personnel Director Nidia Hernandez said.  During the same number of years, one AS employee was fired. In the first two quarters of 2013-14, three AS employees have resigned: two in summer and one — Le — in fall.

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Seattle artist Celeste Cooning creates airy works that last

Celeste Cooning settles in at her worn work table in the Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts for what will be a long night — at 1:30 p.m.

Her company: her handmade templates, her trusty X-Acto knife #11, a couple dozen yards of white Tyvek and the radio, currently tuned in to KEXP.

In fewer than 24 hours, the Seattle artist needs to finish transforming the Tyvek — woven from high-density fibers, the material is hard to tear but easy to cut — into the backdrop for a wedding at Benaroya Hall. The two 10-foot-wide panels have been in the works since spring, but like many of Cooning’s projects, this backdrop will culminate in a down-to-the-wire production night.

Cooning’s backdrops are tapestry-meets-paper snowflake — and they range from small projects to 2010’s ”Celebrations” installation at Occidental Park, which was suspended 30 feet in the air and spanned 70 feet wide. Her work combines airy, elegant shapes with the toughness of Tyvek. She usually works in white because it picks up nuances of light and shadow, which is what her work is about, she says.

Responsible for the huge backdrops at City Hall weddings the day same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state, Cooning also creates pieces for storefronts, celebrations and city parks. One of her new projects is a piece for the John Ritter Foundation, which focuses on aortic disease education and research.

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Associated Students corrects pay miscalculations for 44 positions

Western Washington University’s Associated Students is increasing the salaries of 44 positions that had been paid based on under-calculated amounts for three years, amounting to an annual discrepancy of $11,178.71.

The 44 students who hold those positions this year signed agreements for under-calculated salaries in the spring, but will receive their first paycheck Sept. 25 based on the recalculated salaries, AS Personnel Director Nidia Hernandez said. The acceptance letters signed by the people who previously held the 44 positions were for terms that have since ended. These people will not be reimbursed to have made the recalculated salaries, said Kevin Makjut, director of student activities.

All three-quarter Associated Students employee positions were paid a miscalculated amount for the past three years because some salary placements and rates had been based upon flawed information regarding required work schedules, according to an information item from the Aug. 5 AS Board meeting. In the unrevised salary system, four-quarter employees were mostly getting paid correctly, but “essentially all three-quarter employees [were] being underpaid,” according to the item.

In addition to the 44 positions corrected for this year, 26 four-quarter employee salaries were under-calculated by less than $7 and will be adjusted for next year’s employees, and three positions were paid too much: one by $502.22 and two by $3.59.

No employees were paid less than they were legally entitled to: employees were paid exactly the amounts they signed for, and no one’s salary was ever less than minimum wage. The miscalculations varied from a few dollars to $638.55, according to revised calculations made by Assistant Director of Student Activities Lisa Rosenberg.

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‘Thresholds’ marks the unmarked at Kent cemetery

John Henry Shaw was killed at age 52 by shards of timber following a blast of dynamite in 1912. Laura Stagg had outlived two of her three children when, at 83, she died in her Seattle home in 1910. Nellie Parmenter burned to death at 31 after a cookstove set her dress alight in 1890.

The stories are as varied as the condition of the tombstones marking about half of the nearly 200 graves at Saar Pioneer Cemetery.

For these three, and 86 others, no tombstones mark their final resting place, and even the exact location of their graves is unknown. Historical documents show these people were buried at Saar, and ground-penetrating radar has shown a comparable number of “rectangular anomalies” on site. But who is buried where remains a mystery.

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Tiny superheroes combat big challenges with capes made by Seattle mom

People are drawn to 7-year-old Gabby Krueger in a way her mom, Kim Sistek, can’t even explain.

Strangers have approached Sistek in the store and said there was just something about Gabby; they just had to come say hi.

“On some level I think she makes people a little more comfortable to approach and ask questions about people with special needs,” Sistek said. “I think that’s the power of her strength: It allows people to take a moment and appreciate the life they have. She has helped me grow into a whole other person I had no idea I could be.”

Gabby has epilepsy and is completely dependent: She cannot talk, walk or eat on her own. But she is a tiny superhero — her superpowers include perseverance, courage and strength — and she has the cape to prove it. A purple number, with a blue letter “G” hand-sewn on by Robyn Rosenberger.

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Rock-camp girls to rock Neptune in Thursday showcase

Organizing 40 teenage girls is not usually made easier by loud rock music.

But on a recent afternoon at Billings Middle School in Green Lake, Dani Chang, director of Rain City Rock Camp for Girls (RCRC), makes it work in her favor. Standing onstage in a yellow T-shirt graffitied with Sharpie, she is prepping rock campers to rehearse for their showcase the next day.

“You are the audience as well, so act how you want others to act when you are onstage,” she says.

A few times, a girl misses a beat or hits the wrong chord or forgets a lyric. At rock camp, apologizing for mistakes is not allowed. Girls can only say, “I rock,” and keep playing. Each time a girl forgets the rule and starts to apologize, the girls in the audience sincerely yell that she rocks.

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