Students loiter in the shade of Mullin Town Square in late February. Campus reopened for some in-person classes in April and administration lifted some COVID-19 safety protocols mid-June. Photo by Ali Levens
Under new state and county orders and CDC guidance, Pepperdine lifted social distancing requirements and modified its face covering policy for the Malibu campus. The University will continue to implement or lift COVID-19 safety protocols as it receives more information, Chief Business Officer Nicolle Taylor said in a June 24 interview with the Graphic.
“In this particular case, we tried to evaluate all of the opportunities for permissive changes based on the protocol changes, and then all the ways in which we could — with a paramount goal of health and safety — rise again to that most available level of excellence for us in co-curricular and classroom activities,” Taylor said.
The updated policy says face coverings are required indoors only for individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Everyone is required to wear a face covering on University shuttles, in health care settings, in compliance with Day Camp Protocols and in emergency shelters, according to the Pepperdine Restoration Plan website. There is no face covering requirement outdoors.
Pepperdine removed all social distancing requirements for campus activities with the exception of some workplace settings and athletic events per OSHA and NCAA guidance, respectively, Taylor said.
Seaver College is in its Summer Session I for the month of June, and classroom and housing capacity has returned to normal, Taylor said. Dining also returned to normal capacity, with limited operations for the summer months and plans to reopen all other on-campus dining facilities in the fall, including the Starbucks in Payson Library.
“I feel like that’s sort of the universal sign for ‘Did we return to normal?'” Taylor said, laughing. “Yes, Starbucks will be open.”
Some COVID-19 protocols and policies will not change, Taylor said, like maintaining good hygiene, monitoring COVID-19 symptoms, reporting and contact tracing of infected individuals.
As the University evaluates updated guidance being released in the coming days, Community members can expect additional changes to COVID-19 protocols in the future, particularly regarding Daily Wellness Checks, campus visitor restrictions and travel policies, according to the June 17 Public Relations email.
“It’s a totality of the circumstances analysis every time, and there’s no perfect answer,” Taylor said. “But those two things are always paramount: health and safety, and then our ability to do with excellence the things that are core to our mission.”
Looking to the fall semester, the University, along with the rest of California, no longer recognizes California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy as a benchmark for COVID-19 restrictions. In future decision making, Taylor said Pepperdine will continue to monitor the pandemic within its Infectious Disease Task Force and make informed decisions considering health, safety and delivering academic excellence.
“Our approach is not going to change much, I think, our ability to do more — given the better circumstances related to COVID in the larger community — are what has changed right now,” Taylor said. “We just have more permissions.”
Administration has yet to decide on requiring community members to receive COVID-19 vaccinations prior to the start of the fall semester.
The University is balancing the necessity of a vaccine mandate, Taylor said, taking community member opinions into consideration as well as looking at the functional benefits of a mandate.
A vaccine requirement would not ensure 100% of the community is vaccinated, Taylor said, since there will be exemptions for medical and religious reasons. A mandate may, however, push a portion of the unvaccinated population to receive their shot.
Pepperdine distributed a COVID-19 Vaccination Notification Form all students, faculty and staff must complete by June 30, “because understanding the current vaccination landscape in our community continues to be a key component to guide the University’s decision-making,” according to the June 17 email.
“The University recognizes vaccination is the most important tool to help ensure the University community can come together in the fall and continue to deliver academic and operational excellence,” according to a separate June 17 Public Relations email.
Administration continues to encourage those who are able to be vaccinated to do so.
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