Administration provided Seaver students and parents with updates for spring 2021 semester with important information regarding housing, the academic calendar, International Programs and updates to university communication in a Zoom town hall.
President Jim Gash, Vice President for Student Affairs Connie Horton and Seaver Dean Michael Feltner gave both general and departmental updates for Seaver College and Nicolle Taylor, vice president and chief business officer, moderated a question and answer session between the community and the administration.
“This town hall is a tangible example of action taken on student feedback,” Student Government Association President Chase Johnson said. “You’re going to be given the opportunity to get the questions you’ve been asking answered and get detail on where we currently stand with the spring semester.”
Students will receive a final decision for the delivery modality for the start of spring 2021 by Jan. 8. Though Pepperdine anticipates delivery of spring semester courses to begin online, Gash shared the administration’s hope that later in the semester Los Angeles County regulations would allow for the option of in-person teaching on the Malibu campus.
“Truth is, we were ready for you this fall; we wanted to have you here this fall,” Gash said. “But we don’t get to make these decisions ourselves in the kind of governmental system that we live under.”
The University will deliver all January courses remotely, Feltner said.
There will be no special credit/no credit accommodation for the upcoming semester, Feltner said, though some General Education courses do have the option to be taken for credit versus a letter grade.
The academic calendar, as finalized in September, does not include a spring break but there will be a “recess” from April 2–5 for the Easter holiday.
“We know that a semester with no break is a very long period and we are concerned for your well-being,” Feltner said. “So we’re hopeful that that break provides you an opportunity to, just rest and restore a bit in the middle of the upcoming semester.”
Similar to fall 2020, students will pay a reduced Campus Life Fee for spring 2021 at $63, Horton said. The Student Programming Board, the Student Wellness and Advisory Board, Inter-Club Council and SGA will continue to access these funds.
The University hopes to open on-campus resources as soon as it is able to, including the use of Payson library, outdoor gym facilities, laboratories and music practice rooms, Gash said. Pepperdine is limited by California and Los Angeles stay-at-home orders but continues to plan for students’ return after restrictions have been lifted.
The Pepperdine Counseling Center can provide telehealth counseling services to students living in California and offers support groups and resiliency training for all students at no additional charge.
All Seaver International Programs for spring 2021 are suspended and the Shanghai program’s suspension will extend through the 2022 academic year, Gash said.
International Programs is looking to create more opportunities for sophomores who were unable to go abroad this academic year, Feltner said. Expansion opportunities include creating more summer 2022 International Programs offerings as well as partnering with outside organizations to send students abroad.
“Our strong desire is to continue the International Programs this summer,” Gash said. “As you know, that will depend almost entirely upon the vaccine, upon the ability to control this in the countries that we want to study in, the local laws on the ground there, so we are at the mercy of the [local] government.”
In a typical academic year, first-year and sophomore students are required to live in Pepperdine housing on campus, however, due to the remote nature of fall 2020 and the planned remote start of spring 2021, all first and second-year students are exempt from this requirement, Horton said.
The University cautions first-year students looking to move to Malibu against signing a longer lease that would last through the start of fall 2021, as these students may be required to live on campus for the 2022 academic year as sophomores.
If Pepperdine is able to reopen and allow students on campus, all students must follow the new COVID-19 Interim Protocols as outlined by the Student Code of Conduct and detailed in the Pepperdine Restoration Plan. COVID-19 guidelines include masking, social distancing, testing and participating in the University’s “green dot” program, a contact tracing and symptom tracking tool.
The University will not be requiring students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at this time, but the administration strongly encourages students to be vaccinated when available, Gash said. Students looking to travel abroad as International Program participants may need to be vaccinated according to national guidelines, however, more information will be provided at a later time if this is the case, Feltner said.
“As we continue to evaluate [COVID-19 vaccine requirements], our operating assumption is that we will not require it,” Gash said. “If it is strongly encouraged, or if it were to be required, which I do not believe it will be, there would be an exception or an exemption for those with compelling reasons. But at this point, we’re not planning on requiring it.”
Pepperdine is expanding its communication outreach to be more transparent with students and parents, Feltner said, as many expressed concerns that the University was withholding information from students due to a lack of communication. Feltner assured viewers the University is not withholding information and will communicate all details as soon as they are known to the administration.
Students will receive push notifications through the Navigate app for less urgent University communication as well as texts through the app, for those with a phone number on record. Administration will continue to share large announcements via email.
A complete recording of the town hall can be viewed online here.
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