Senior Sydney Griffith grabs a bite of ice cream with a friend at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Calabasas after class Sept. 4. Griffith wore a mask and interacted with a small group of friends. Photo by Jaylene Ramli
Over 200 Pepperdine students live off campus in Malibu while taking online classes. A recent Graphic article found the most common reason for coming back to Malibu was to continue socializing with classmates and friends to simulate the typical college experience as much as possible.
As of Sep. 6, there were 100 COVID-19 cases in Malibu, and with Pepperdine students regularly socializing, this number could increase. Students, however, said they are motivated to continue to socialize since Pepperdine announced that classes would be offered completely online for the fall semester. Students also received news that all abroad programs were suspended for fall. According to a Graphic article, this caused the sophomores to scramble for off-campus housing.
“We’re so young, and we’re only this young once, and college is supposed to be the best experience of our lives,” said sophomore Mia Zendejas, who moved back to Malibu after learning the Florence program was suspended for fall 2020. “[By moving back to Malibu,] I could try to emulate the college experience that we’re not really getting right now.”
In addition to an online semester, students received news that all abroad programs were suspended for fall. Zendejas said this caused the sophomores to scramble for off-campus housing.
Zendejas said she socializes outside of her roommate group but is selective about the people she comes into contact with. If she is skeptical about whether someone is being safe, she will go surfing, as this allows her to maintain distance and be outdoors.
Living with roommates who are also socializing, Zendejas said she is extra cautious about disinfecting common spaces. She also emphasized that communication is key; her roommate group decided on house guidelines when they first moved in to ensure everyone was on the same page with how to stay safe.
Jorge Moreno, a junior, said he also had conversations with his roommates about how they would stay safe as a group to protect the high-risk mother of one of their roommates.
“[It is important] that we are all hanging out with people who we know are also being responsible,” Moreno said. “There’s a security that if somebody does test positive, they will let you know and then be able to contain that or mitigate the risk of spread.”
Moreno said he is socializing by doing homework at friends’ houses, going on hikes and hanging out with a smaller circle of friends than he would be if campus were open.
Senior Sydney Griffith said spending time with her friends is more important to her in her final year. In her free time, she interacts with friends by staying in smaller groups and doing a lot of outdoor activities.
“I don’t think there’s one right way to do things,” Griffith said.
Griffith is not the only Pepperdine senior looking to make her last year memorable. Senior Lindsey Coffman shared similar sentiments and said it is crucial to her to make this “year of lasts” as fun as possible.
“Since it’s my senior year, I want to be with my friends and do virtual senior year together,” Coffman said.
Coffman has been socializing by doing lots of outdoor activities like going to the beach or outdoor restaurants. She said if people are not being safe, she will not be as inclined to come into contact with them.
While many Pepperdine students choose to interact with others responsibly, there have been incidences where this is not the case. Communication Professor Jon Pfeiffer said he has witnessed occasions of Pepperdine students throwing large parties in his Malibu neighborhood.
“[It is upsetting] to see somebody just breaking the rules, especially when Pepperdine has gone as far as they have and going online for everything,” Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer said the students are throwing indoor parties with 20 to 30 people with no masks or social distancing. While Pfeiffer said he does not feel individually affected by the lack of social distancing, he is concerned that these students will put the community at risk.
“All of these students, I assume, have families they are going back to visit, and some of them are probably in risk groups,” Pfeiffer said.
Pepperdine administration continues to encourage students to social distance in light of many community members returning to Malibu. Connie Horton, vice president for Student Affairs, reminded students of state and county guidelines in an email sent to the Pepperdine community Aug. 27.
“Because we have had reports that our students have been gathering locally in large groups at the beaches or in house parties, I also want to take a moment to remind you that students are expected to comply with all state and county guidelines wherever they currently reside,” Horton wrote. “This means that while off campus, even at outdoor spaces, including beaches, you should continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and not be in gatherings or at parties. Please commit to following these guidelines to keep yourself and others safe, and so you can be a good neighbor to those around you.”
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