President John McVay addresses racial issues during campus-wide assembly.
On March 27, 2018, 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.
In a same-day statement published online, the university condemned racism, saying that it “takes seriously our 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 its campus communities and beyond, Walla Walla University has scheduled listening sessions to facilitate sharing of concerns about the incident, which took place once the students returned 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.”
In a release on March 26, Walla Walla indicated that just before the university’s spring break, administrators learned of an anti-black, racist social media post involving six students on the College Place campus. The release stated that Walla Walla was 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 Student Life Office are working closely together throughout this process, which is still ongoing,” read the release.
The Walla Walla University administration, according to the March 27 release, “recognizes the imbalance of diversity on our campuses and for many years has worked carefully to promote diversity and inclusion. These efforts have been facilitated through the WWU Office of Diversity, 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.”
Walla Walla also recognizes that “this recent incident has the potential to undo our diligent work to promote diversity and inclusion, and we are determined not to let that happen.”