Art by Ally Armstrong
This past week, the Pepperdine Presidential Search Committee announced the five finalists for the position. Within 24 hours, the Freedom Wall exhibited a display regarding the lack of racial and gender diversity within the finalist pool. Out of the five individuals, all of them are White and only one of them, Nancy Jordan, is a woman. The other candidates include both internal candidates — Rick Marrs, provost and chief academic officer, and Jim Gash, associate dean for strategic planning and external relations for Pepperdine Law – and external candidates — Greg Sterling and Tim Perrin.
As a part of the decision process, the committee invited students to come to town hall sessions with the individual candidates, as well as participate in the student forum.
This procedure offers students a unique opportunity to be active members in the election of Pepperdine’s next president. Andrew Benton, Pepperdine’s longest-standing president, has been leading the university for 19 years. This next president could be the university’s leader for the next 20 years.
For those who are disapprove of the candidate pool, rather than sit and fume over the presidential process, be active in the opportunities that are provided to students. The process isn’t completely democratic, but that is not an excuse for being apathetic. Instead of becoming complacent, work toward positive change with what is offered.
Students have the responsibility of helping select the president that will oversee the university for future Waves. This man or woman will make decisions that will either increase or reduce the value of Pepperdine degrees, affecting current students long past their remaining years in Malibu. It is important to remember the president’s impact on the university’s future, even for those seniors who will not be around for the new president’s term.
While it is apparent that some community members are upset with the lack of diversity among the candidates, they still have the chance to voice their opinions on the candidates that the committee has provided. The public cannot know the full list of applicants for the presidential position, but students can still put in research and their opinion into the next step of the process.
Students should share with the five finalists what students want for the future of the university and take note of the candidates’ responses. This is the time when students have the opportunity to ask questions, share their experiences and form perspectives based on the candidates’ ideas and actions, rather than strictly their appearance.
Remember the leadership traits or other qualities that are valuable and should be aspects of Pepperdine’s next president. After the events of this past November, it is also important to keep in mind who will represent the university during moments of national scrutiny and disaster — someone who can provide both comfort and guidance when necessary.
While the next president may not physically represent diversity, it is still within the students’ power to ensure he or she advocates for representation of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations and faiths.
As Benton has his quirks, such as playing electric guitar in his band and carrying a copy of the First Amendment at all times, each candidate will offer qualities that students can relate to or find endearing. The new president will also engage in significant, campus-wide decisions. Benton has overseen decisions that students today see as fundamental parts of the university such as contributions to new international programs, fundraising efforts and the construction of Drescher campus.
While voicing one’s opinion has, is and will always be an integral part of the Pepperdine community, now is the time to do that in a way that supplements the process at hand. This applies to future undertakings such as the selection of the new International Programs Dean and other significant positions within the Pepperdine community.
Students should be actively involved as much as possible, using their voice however they can to contribute to decisions such as that of the next president. This upset over candidates’ diversity shows the passion this campus holds — now let’s put it to use, to leave a mark on the university.
For students who want to know more about the candidates’ educational and professional background, each candidate’s curriculum vitae is available on Pepperdine’s Presidential Search page. Students are also encouraged to fill out a survey on the candidates by Friday, Jan. 25.
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