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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Seattle improv troupe to stage real ‘Wedding Horror Stories’

The bridesmaids’ purple dresses had been custom-fitted, but when the mother of the bride found out, she ordered the dresses returned. She was planning to wear the same color.

Stories like this make actress Cheryl Platz grateful that the plans for her September wedding have gone relatively smoothly.

“It calls into attention all the moving pieces that can go wrong,” she said.

Platz is a cast member of “Wedding Horror Stories,” an original, improvised comedy show staged by Seattle Experimental Theater that will premiere Thursday. During each performance, the cast will re-create wedding mishaps solicited from the audience during the show.

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Washington state vacates house bill to waive marijuana misdemeanors

A bill that would have waived misdemeanor marijuana offenses for adults ages 21 and older died in the Washington State House of Representatives.

Washington State House Bill 1661, which passed to the rules committee for a second reading on March 1, never made it to the House floor. It would have allowed all adults convicted of a marijuana misdemeanor before recreational use was legalized in Washington to apply to the sentencing court for a vacation of their charges.

Although the bill won’t make it into law this year,  sponsor Representative Joe Fitzgibbons said it was well-received.

“It started a good conversation,” Fitzgibbons said. “We are going to have to take another shot at it next year.”

Representative Kevin Parker, the ranking minority member who opposed the bill, was unavailable for comment.

When marijuana became legal in Washington, many prosecutors waived misdemeanor charges people had incurred before legalization. Fitzgibbons said this was a courageous thing to do and the correct decision, knowing the voters of Washington did not believe possession of small amounts should be a crime.

Fitzgibbons estimated that a couple hundred people were affected by that decision…

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Spain charged with murder of 17-year-old stabbing victim

Bellingham, Wash. – A 21-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a teenager who was stabbed outside a dwindling house party on Samish Way earlier this month.

Geoff K. Spain was charged Feb. 12 with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Davonte Thompson, 17, and second-degree assault in connection with injuries sustained by Brandon Thompson, 18, Davonte’s brother.

Police arrested Spain on suspicion of stabbing the two teens on Feb. 9 outside of a house on the 500 block of Samish Way. He was booked into Whatcom County Jail and his bail is set at $1 million.

Bellingham Police still want to speak with the occupant(s) of a vehicle that may have witnessed activity related to Davonte’s death. Information provided to police indicates a vehicle stopped in the roadway at Samish Way and Fielding Avenue at about 2 a.m. Feb. 9 to remove a tree limb obstructing traffic. Police identified Samish Way and Fielding Avenue as the location of the stabbing.

The party started Friday night, Feb. 8 at a house Spain shares with other people. Police responded to a noise complaint from neighbors at 11:24 p.m., Bellingham Police spokesman Mark Young said. The renter police contacted was cooperative. People were leaving in an orderly and uneventful manner, he said.

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Western students teach and perform improv

Magical, adventurous, scary and life-changing — Western senior, Associated Students communications director and member of the Dead Parrots Society Mario Orallo-Malinaro will be one of the Upfront Theatre satellite program’s first members when it launches in October 2012, and these are the words he used to describe his hobby and passion, improvisational theater.

Orallo-Malinaro said improvisational theater helps him not to get lost in his busy schedule.

“I think a lot of people, they’re so busy with their lives, you know what I’m saying? I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re just so busy,” Orallo-Malinaro said, “but I think with improv you have to be in the moment, because if you’re not in the moment, really connecting with somebody, then you’ll get lost and then you get overwhelmed.”

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Grandparents ‘U’ brings generations together

Madison, a fourth-grader and returning Grandparents “U” participant, teared up when she learned her first Grandparents “U” class was over and said, “I want to go back to college,” her grandmother Sharon Gray said.

Gray and Madison came back to college Aug. 2 and 3, when Western Washington University’s Grandparents “U” summer program completed its first session at Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes.

The two-day intergenerational summer program for grandparents and their grandchildren ages 7 to 14 provided 19 participants a chance to spend time together while exploring marine ecology topics taught by Western faculty.

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Frontline: Family of deceased student deserves privacy

When a student dies, it is not uncommon for the surrounding community to speculate about the cause of death. The fact of the matter is, as curious as we all may be, how a student dies is no one’s business but the family’s. Public speculation does nothing to help the family and friends cope with the death. The university administration is put in an undesirable position in times like this, and the decision whether or not to release the name of a Western student who has died can not be an easy one.

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