Pepperdine University is opening its doors to about 4,000 Seaver students in the fall 2021 semester, while facilities try to satisfy COVID-19 requirements. Previous requirements included socially distanced seating, outdoor tables and reservation systems. Photo by Ryan Brinkman
With the fall 2021 semester right around the corner and 2,500 students preparing to live on campus, Pepperdine’s libraries, campus recreation and dining facilities must juggle safety and efficiency.
Over the past year, Pepperdine’s Malibu campus went from completely closed to open at full capacity. COVID-19 regulations caused Pepperdine’s facilities to undergo weeks of planning and training. Facilities reopened indoor spaces, incorporated online resources and prepared alternatives to traditional operations.
“Our main goal is to provide outstanding support for our students as they pursue their academic work at Pepperdine,” wrote Mark Roosa, dean of Pepperdine Libraries, in an Aug. 12 email to the Graphic.
Pepperdine Libraries Foster an Academic Space
After an initial reopening mid-March with strict COVID-19 policies, such as social distancing and a reservation system, the easing of social distancing requirements will make it easier for the library to accommodate students, Roosa wrote. Payson staff also plan for high-traffic times such as midterms and finals.
“Typically, we extend hours during these times to accommodate students’ study needs,” Roosa wrote. “If need be we can add some additional seats in the larger study spaces such as the Payson Library Surfboard Room.”
Reservations will only be used for study rooms, Roosa wrote; however, if COVID-19 restrictions increase, students may need to schedule reservations for other areas of the library.
“We are excited at the prospect of Starbucks reopening and students using the Payson patio for socializing and study,” Roosa wrote. “Additionally, several outdoor tables are available in the courtyard outside the front entrance, which are nice places to meet a friend for coffee.”
The library continues to utilize the digital reserve system implemented in 2020 for checking out digital books and will add a system for physical books in the fall 2021 semester, Roosa wrote.
“During the past year, we have added a considerable number of new books to our stacks, so we encourage students to come in and browse the shelves, especially for newly published titles that may not be available digitally,” Roosa wrote.
Campus Recreation Plans For Multiple Outcomes
Robb Bolton, director of Campus Recreation, said there are no capacity limits in Firestone Fieldhouse. The recent government mandate requires students to wear masks indoors with masking recommended outside as well as to clean equipment after use.
Since the Cage — an outside recreational center by the lower tennis courts for heavy lifting and fitness classes — does not have a mask requirement, it will be open for limited hours, Bolton said.
The absence of a capacity limit means the Firestone Fieldhouse weight room will no longer use the reservation system, with the facility open during normal operating hours for walk-ins, following COVID-19 regulations, Bolton said.
“If things move in the direction to be more restrictive, we know what that would mean — it would mean capacity limitations,” Bolton said. “So we already know how to deal with that because we’ve been operating for fitness with capacity limits for sports.”
For indoor fitness classes, there is no extra regulation outside of mask wearing and University COVID-19 testing. Bolton said the ability to attend fitness classes is mainly based on the honor system, with students encouraged to not attend if they feel ill. Campus Recreation has talked to county officials about how to provide ideal circulation for studios.
The exact future of club sports is unknown. Each club sport, Bolton said, has its own league, which sets regulations according to state and federal guidelines. Club sports are different from NCAA division sports because the NCAA has the funding for frequent testing.
“We don’t have that capacity, and most club sports and Campus Rec programs don’t,” Bolton said. “So we’re trying to navigate that and see what would be the way to move forward for us to keep our students safe.”
Most club sport competitions begin in the spring with tennis in the fall, Bolton said, and students will likely be wearing masks for training. The ability to have a season varies from sport to sport. Distanced sports such as surfing, tennis and beach volleyball will have less challenges to a successful season.
“Sports that’ll probably be the ones that are going to have the most challenges will be [Men’s] Rugby and Women’s Lacrosse because social distancing is impossible,” Bolton said. “There’s a lot of contact in those sports, and that’s one of the things that they try to avoid if possible.”
Bolton said he and his staff have been meeting throughout the pandemic while also attending calls with LA County and making plans for different scenarios. As a member of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, Bolton said he is able to stay up to date with changing information.
Indoor intramural sports will require masks for participants and limits to the number of spectators, Bolton said.
“The only difference from normal for them is that there will be masks required even while participating, but indoor volleyball is a safe sport to play with them as compared to something that’s a higher energy demand like basketball, so we’ll be good on that,” Bolton said.
Campus Recreation will not be hosting any outdoor trips over the semester, Bolton said. Changing guidelines make it difficult to make reservations, which often have to be planned weeks in advance. Campus Recreation plans on hosting local one-day excursions and educational presentations where students can learn skills for when overnight camping returns.
“The main takeaway is we’re prepared for whatever the options come and we’re going to get on being more cautious,” Bolton said.
Pepperdine Dining Creates Ways to Reduce Traffic
Rodney Reed, Sodexo’s resident district manager, said Pepperdine dining was open the past year, feeding a small number of students despite the campus closure. To stay up to date with COVID-19 regulations, Sodexo has weekly meetings with the LA Health Department and regularly meets with the University.
“We get a lot of information and a lot of direction that we follow from the health department and from those agencies that really help us be able to stay safe,” Reed said. “So whenever we do get those calls and with the way it is lately, not much has changed — but as it does change, we’re in a position to make those changes quickly.”
If social distancing restrictions resumed, Reed said Pepperdine dining has floor plans in place as well as decals and signage from the past year.
“So all those things put together put us in a position where if we do find ourselves needing to follow more stringent restrictions, we’ll be in a good place to do so,” Reed said.
To lessen traffic in dining locations, Reed said Pepperdine dining installed GrubHub across facilities, allowing students to pick food up without waiting in long lines. Pepperdine dining also utilizes the Bite app, where consumers can see what food is offered, reducing confusion when in the dining area.
“We actually launched GrubHub today at Starbucks,” Reed said. “Starbucks opened today [Aug. 16] — a little soft opening this week — and we opened at 7, and by 7:30, we had our first GrubHub. So we’re really excited and what that’s going to provide for everybody here on campus.”
As of Aug. 16, Waves Cafe, School of Law Cafe, and Starbucks are open on campus, Reed said. Drescher’s Cafe opened Aug. 23, and the HAWC and the CCB cafe will open Aug. 29 and 30, respectively. As of Aug. 16, COVID-19 regulations allow for limited indoor dining on campus.
Reed said many members of tenured staff returned after COVID-19, along with new hires. Before campus opens, the staff will have gone through several weeks of training. Guests who lead these training courses include professionals such as the Starbucks corporate district manager.
“Any time you train in food safety, there’s always a tremendous amount of training around food safety and hygiene, and all those pieces that are just actually part of what we do,” Reed said. “But there’s even more of a focus on that now, making sure that we’re able to take that a step higher to include COVID, which we’ve been doing for this last year and a half.”
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