A fake news story circulated last week by an online news service cited a nonexistent report from a nonexistent diversity institute to misrepresent the facts about Western Washington University's student demographics.
The story, which was also carried on The Skanner's website, was called "Western Washington University Ranks Dead Last in Campus Diversity."
It was circulated by the Diversity Online News Service, and posted on a free website that has since pulled it from the web.
The contact number on the story was the same number attributed to Frank Robinson, who listed himself as editor of Diversity Online News.
Robinson has not responded to numerous emails for comment on the bogus report, and does not answer his telephone, which has no answering machine.
"We were very concerned about someone taking the time to deliberately misrepresent the diversity statistics at Western because the real statistics are considerably higher than that," said Paul Cocke, a WWU spokesman. "We've made significant strides on diversity and for someone to attack us using bogus information is alarming."
The story cited Dr. Richard Smith of the Diversity Institute commenting on an "exhaustive 6 month study" that found WWU as "dead last among NCAA Division II schools in campus diversity."
The story claimed the university has only a 3.5 percent diversity rate among students.
In fact, according to Lucy Cantu of the WWU admissions office, the school's diversity rate is growing every year.
The university's documents show 22 percent of fall 2008 freshman are students of color; 19.6 percent of fall 2008 transfers are students of color; 18.02 percent of fall 2008 total enrollment are students of color; and 25.5 percent of Fall 2009 freshman applications are from students of color compared with 24.8 percent at this time last year.
Included in "Students of color" are all students who self-reported ethnic or racial identity as Black/African American, Native American, Asian American and Hispanic.
Cantu wrote in an email to The Skanner that these statistics are at an all-time high.
"The article that circulated about being ranked last in diversity is incredibly misleading," she wrote.
The article included a link to a genuine student newspaper story online about an incident between campus police and a student of color characterized by the student as racial profiling.
It also discussed the university's recent decision to discontinue its century-old football team, quoting Seattle NAACP President James Bible about his experiences on the team.
Bible, reached for comment via email, said he believes the quotes attributed to him come from a Seattle Times article.
"Words related to my own experience appear to be accurate," Bible wrote in an email to The Skanner. "I have never said anything related to a percentage impact that the elimination of the program would have on the minority composition of the school."
The story also named Ty Williams of the Pacific Northwest Human Rights Coalition as condemning the university. However, while there is a Ty Williams who resides in Seattle, there is no organization with that exact name – rather there are two with similar-sounding names.
Cocke said he supports the right of free speech, but the bogus news item went too far.
"A core value of western is to respect and honor the background of viewpoints and opinions," Cocke said. "That's also a cornerstone of our strategic plans and has been reaffirmed many times by our board and president and by our students and staff."