Gleaner interview with President John McVay

April 24, 2018

Steve Vistaunet, editor of The Gleaner, conducted a 30-minute video interview with McVay. He highlighted eight specific areas of diversity focus that will be immediately addressed. Watch the entirety of that interview and read about these eight areas of focus.

This morning at our weekly campus-wide assembly, President McVay spoke to our university family about how we care for each other.


Today, Walla Walla University administrators and officials met to discuss the ongoing investigation of reports that a small group of Walla Walla University students distributed photos of themselves in blackface on social media.

The university condemns racism and takes seriously its mission to value all people and to provide safety and security on our campuses. As such, the university enforces policies and processes related to student conduct. This incident will be thoroughly investigated by the Student Conduct Board, which will determine appropriate sanctions.

In response to the hurt and anger felt by many in our campus communities and beyond, Walla Walla University has scheduled listening sessions to facilitate sharing of concerns about the incident, which will take place as soon as our students return from spring break on Monday, April 2. Additional campus resources, including counseling and spiritual support, are available. The Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture is also considering opportunities to engage and support students in conversation, and the university is planning other opportunities to educate and remind our campus community about our values and the impact of how we treat one another.

The Walla Walla University administration recognizes the imbalance of diversity on our campuses and for many years has worked carefully to promote diversity and inclusion. Our efforts have been facilitated through the WWU Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the assistant to the president for diversity, a Diversity Council, committees to promote events and activities related to diversity, employee and student clubs that celebrate diverse backgrounds, the Donald Blake Center, the Center for Educational Equity and Diversity, the Associated Students of Walla Walla University Inclusive Committee, and ministries to provide diverse worship experiences.

We recognize that this recent incident has the potential to undo our diligent work to promote diversity and inclusion, and we are determined to not let that happen.

Just before our spring break, Walla Walla University administrators became aware of an anti-black, racist social media post involving six students on our College Place campus, and we are actively investigating this incident. As soon as we became aware of the post a special task force was formed and met with five of the students involved, and the administration alerted our campus family to the investigation. Our Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Student Life Office are working closely together throughout this process, which is still ongoing.

Demeaning others is reprehensible, and this social media post is unacceptable behavior. We at Walla Walla University are thoroughly committed to uncovering the motivations for such behavior and disciplining the involved students accordingly.  

Walla Walla University has a deep commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion. Our mission statement declares, "...every person is created in the image of God as a being of inestimable value and worth, imbued with powers of intelligence, stewardship, and creativity akin to those of the Creator.”  

Walla Walla University therefore condemns this behavior and the content of the racist social media post in the strongest possible terms.  We prioritize diversity and inclusion, and we want all students to feel welcomed, valued and secure on our campuses.  Acknowledging that people, both on and off our campus, have been hurt and angered by this post, our response to this incident will reflect our unwavering commitment to our university’s values and mission.


Walla Walla University answers questions about racism and diversity issues on its campuses.

March 30, 2018

Just before our spring break, Walla Walla University administrators became aware of an anti-black, racist social media post involving six students on our College Place campus. Five of the students appeared to be in blackface, with the words “Wakanda” and “#prettyhurts,” as well as the WWU logo Snapchat filter, placed on the photo.

We condemn racism, and we are taking this incident seriously. We see and hear the hurt and anger felt by many in our campus communities and beyond.

We apologize, not only for this post, but also for any current or historical racism on our campuses.

WWU enforces policies and processes related to student conduct, and this incident will be reviewed accordingly.

Disciplinary proceedings may be instituted against a student charged with conduct that violates the university’s Student Code of Conduct. Charges are presented to the student in writing, and Student Conduct Board hearings are scheduled and held according to university policy. If the Student Conduct Board determines that a student violated the Student Code of Conduct, sanctions may be imposed. A decision reached by the Student Conduct Board, or sanctions imposed, may be appealed by the student, according to university policies.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Walla Walla University can’t release information from a student’s education record, which includes disciplinary actions, without written permission from the student or unless those actions meet certain conditions as outlined in the law. FERPA applies to all students, either currently or previously enrolled at WWU, regardless of age, and it restricts the release of information even to the student’s family members.

WWU will be able to confirm that our disciplinary process was followed, but the university, by law, can’t release information about disciplinary actions that can be identified with a particular student.

We are determined to address this incident head-on through education, diversity and sensitivity training, conversation, and continual prayer.

As a first step, during the first week of spring quarter, the university will offer:

  • Both private and public listening sessions so that students, faculty, and staff can share concerns about the social media post and reflect on how we treat one another.
  • Extended counseling and chaplain’s office hours for students, faculty, and staff who wish to receive additional emotional and spiritual care.

We will also address these issues in our weekly all-campus gathering and will alter our class schedule to accommodate a series of “Let’s Talk” diversity-focused educational presentations for our campus community.

Beyond this first week, we will work with diversity and thought leaders to prepare other steps and learning opportunities to enhance our ongoing efforts.

No. Walla Walla University does not tolerate racism. Our Student Handbook and Code of Conduct prohibits intentional discrimination against a person or group of people on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status, or sexual orientation except where such distinction is allowed by law (Article III, Section B, Item 8).

Our Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedure prohibits disparate and unfair treatment of any individual because of his/her race, color, sex, national origin, age, or disability as defined by federal, state, or local laws [including] harassment and intimidation (p. 2).

Walla Walla University encourages individuals encountering possible discrimination or harassment of any kind to submit an anonymous reporting form. Additionally, reports can be made to:

Students: Doug Tilstra, vice president for Student Life,, (509) 527-2511.

Employees: Jennifer Carpenter, director of human resources,, (509) 527-2141.

Anyone: Pedrito Maynard-Reid, assistant to the president for diversity/ombudsman,, (509) 527-2028.

Yes, we’ve received reports of demeaning or racist behavior on our campuses, both recently and in the past. We condemn racism, and we apologize for any current or historic racism on our campuses.

We take reports of racism seriously, maintaining policies, an anonymous reporting mechanism, and an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, to help us address these issues. In recent years, whenever a concern has come to the attention of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the concern has been addressed. We strongly encourage anyone who has experienced racism to report it so that it can be addressed.

A decade ago Walla Walla University established the role of chief diversity officer on the WWU campus called the assistant to the president for diversity. This position reports directly to the WWU president and sits on the president’s Cabinet.

The WWU assistant to the president for diversity leads the activities of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which include:

  • Sponsoring faculty, staff, and student affinity networks and clubs.
  • Providing support to the Black Alumni of Walla Walla University (BAWWU).
  • Attending and remaining actively involved in the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE).
  • Participating in local civic groups and diversity coalitions.
  • Benchmarking the university’s diversity, inclusion, and equity statistics and efforts with other higher education institutions.
  • Helping to attract ethnic minority employees and recruit minority students to Walla Walla University.
  • Serving on the Student Life Behavioral Intervention Team, with special responsibility for diversity issues.
  • Overseeing the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture.
  • Serving as the university’s chief representative for personal and corporate issues regarding diversity, inclusion, and equity, both on and off our five campuses. 

The assistant to the president for diversity also leads an active Diversity Council on campus. The council membership includes:

  • The university president.
  • Vice presidents from student life, academics, and enrollment/alumni.
  • Student leaders.
  • Our human resources director.
  • Elected faculty and staff.
  • Community members.

The council regularly receives training on topics such as unconscious bias, tokenism, harassment, perpetual foreigner, mansplaining, implicit bias, and cultural humility to name a few of the most recent. The council holds an open forum yearly, inviting members of our university campus to share ideas or concerns. Additionally, the council provides guidance and helps organize a range of activities such as Berean Fellowship, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Martin Luther King, Jr. CommUnity, Peacekeeping Week, and Women’s History Month. 

The council’s strategic plan is updated and reviewed at least yearly by the president’s Cabinet and the Walla Walla University Board of Trustees. The 2017–2020 plan prioritizes five goals: 

  1. Identify and acquire existing and needed resources to prioritize diversity. 
  2. Attract and nurture first-generation college students by meeting their unique needs. 
  3. Recruit and nurture minority students, faculty, and staff to foster a climate that goes beyond tolerance and tokenism to inclusion and equity. 
  4. Prepare students who come from homogenous and privileged backgrounds to identify and confront unequal treatment, practice, and policy. 
  5. Provide regular diversity training for all employees. 

Included among student leaders on the council are leaders from the Associated Students of Walla Walla University’s Inclusive Committee, which meets regularly to address student questions or concerns and to facilitate efforts to improve diversity in student leadership and activities to better nurture diversity on our campuses. Members of the council also participate in most employee search committees, and our human resources team intentionally strives for diversity among the membership of our search committees. 

In addition to our diversity conversations and planning related to ethnicity, we also consider gender, socioeconomic status, family education, age, and ability/disability diversity, among others. To that end, we require routine training for our employees, covering topics such as:

  • Collaboration skills for diversity.
  • Building a supportive workplace community.
  • Accommodating employees with disabilities.
  • Recognizing and avoiding workplace retaliation.
  • Recognizing and addressing workplace bullying. 

We also frequently remind our employees about our standards of conduct to ensure health and safety on our campuses, including expectations for and policies regarding discrimination or harassment. In addition to routine training, special training and presentations often address diversity themes.

Walla Walla University leadership openly recognizes the imbalance of diversity on our campuses.

Among our student population, since 2001, an average of 74 percent of undergraduate students who have reported ethnicity designate themselves as White/Caucasian. This average among graduate students since 2001 is 78 percent. In 2018 65 percent of our undergraduate students who report ethnicity designate themselves as White/Caucasian. This number for 2018 among graduate students is 75 percent.

Ethnic diversity is difficult to judge at first glance. Ethnicity is reported voluntarily by employees, which means that the university’s statistics on employee diversity are not complete, but are reported here to the best of our ability. In fall 2017, the university asked its employees to report their ethnicity so that we can benchmark our efforts to increase diversity among faculty and staff on our campuses. Of the university employees who were queried and responded, 84 percent indicated that their ethnicity is “White/Caucasian.”  

Walla Walla University, committed to Equal Employment Opportunity in its hiring practices, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national origin, or marital status. Because increasing diversity among our employees is important to us, members from our Diversity Council participate in most employee search committees, and our human resources team intentionally strives for diversity among the membership of our search committees.

Walla Walla University maintains a policy of equal educational opportunity for all applicants without regard to gender, race, color, nationality and/or origin, age or disability, and in administration of its educational and admissions policies, financial aid, employment programs, student financial services or any other university-administered programs. The university works carefully to increase diversity among students, especially encouraging campus visits that provide unfiltered opportunity to connect with current students and employees of diverse backgrounds to assess how WWU serves their needs and interests. We seek out minority potential students through college fairs, convocations and camp meetings, and other regional events. Key printed and online materials are translated into Spanish to help parents navigate the process comfortably. International students also receive assistance with documentation and other logistics through our admissions office.


Safety at Walla Walla University, on and off our campus, is a top priority. WWU publishes an annual security and safety report for each of our campuses according to the guidelines set forth in the Clery Act. For the last three years, no hate crimes have been reported on- or off-campus.