In an Oct. 28 email, President Jim Gash shared the Presidential Action Advisory Team’s recommendations for action to promote diversity and inclusion at Pepperdine.
Gash referenced the recent distress from the Pepperdine community regarding School of Public Policy Dean Pete Peterson’s Oct. 12 email and petition and the hurt its racist undertones caused to students, faculty, staff and alumni.
“As Provost Marrs said on Monday and as I have said previously — we reject all forms of racism in our community and stand united with our Black students, faculty, and staff,” Gash wrote. “We also believe it isn’t enough to just listen and to enhance awareness. We must take action that leads to a broad and abiding sense among our entire community that Pepperdine is a community where everyone belongs.”
The seven key areas the PAAT identified include curriculum, hiring, diversity and inclusion education, environment and culture, a center for diversity, Presidential Speaker Series and assessment.
“As we envision our future, I am very pleased to announce the following action steps that we intend to implement in collaboration with the many and diverse stakeholders that it will take to address these all-important matters,” Gash wrote. “We have already begun the process with many of these initiatives and will continue to pursue them with diligence and alacrity.”
Pepperdine is in the midst of its search for a chief diversity officer, working with national and internal search firms to find candidates. As of Oct. 28, 146 individuals expressed interest and 36 have completed applications.
Pepperdine is also looking to hire a vice president for community belonging, which would serve as a senior officer, Gash wrote. The VPCB will be in charge of developing and implementing diversity and inclusion education — which will include a cultural competence and humility component — for staff, faculty, students and administration.
Another project for the VPCB will be the creation of a “center for diversity and belonging,” Gash wrote. The center would be a space for all five schools to facilitate events and programming, community involvement and leading assessment of diversity efforts.
Several different departments, per Gash’s requests, will facilitate a self-review, including Human Resources, Student Affairs, Admissions and International Programs. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will also enhance assessments on the University as a whole, Gash wrote.
Human Resources will review recruiting and hiring practices to ensure the University is utilizing best practices and addressing implicit bias. The department will also discuss strategies for retaining employees of color and providing relevant resources to supervisors.
Student Affairs will assess and identify strategies to more fully support students of color through reviewing different sectors including student clubs and organizations, the Office of Student Accessibility, Veterans Services, Intercultural Affairs and Housing and Residence Life. Student Affairs will also renew the civil rights spring break tour under Project L.E.A.D., though this may not be until 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gash wrote.
“This trip, which I hope to join, isn’t just a meaningful experience for those who participate,” Gash wrote. “Our students return to us sharing their experience and building more wisdom, vision, and empathy within our community.”
Deans and faculty across the five schools will evaluate curriculum for inclusion of multiple voices and discussion of racial justice, Gash wrote. There will also be a discussion among the International Programs department about cultural competence education for students preparing to study abroad.
Gash also announced plans for a Presidential Speaker Series — a speaking series featuring nationally esteemed scholars, focusing on current issues including racial justice.
“We aspire for Pepperdine to be a place where we invite vigorous dialogue from diverse viewpoints to discuss difficult issues with honor and through civil discourse,” Gash wrote.
Administration is also working with representatives of the Chumash tribe to create a display to honor and recognize the tribe, whose land Pepperdine now sits on.
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