Graphic by Nate Barton
Over the past few months, members of BSA and SGA have been working tirelessly to ensure the conversation concerning race relations on campus does not end. Promoting cultural competency, diversity and inclusion on Pepperdine’s campus are complex issues, but we are still making remarkable strides. To keep this conversation about diversity going, it’s important for all students to understand the events that transpired this past year. The movement continues, and we feel it is our job to update you on the progress that has been made.
The Black Student Association organized a demonstration on Nov. 13, 2015 to stand in solidarity with Mizzou and also in reaction to Pepperdine administration’s lack of urgency and unresponsiveness to racially motivated posts on the social app, Yik-Yak.
Participants in the demonstration included Seaver students, faculty and staff who came draped in all black, ready to advocate that their lives matter and deserve to be defended on this campus. Numerous posts on this app dehumanized several ethnic groups on campus, labeling them “monkeys,” accusing them of reverse racism and attacking the Black Lives Matter movement. Several students gathered together to compile a list of specific suggestions. We wanted our voices to be heard, and could only do so by challenging the Pepperdine status quo as we know it.
Post-demonstration, President Andrew K. Benton created an ad hoc group to tackle this issue of cultural competency and diversity in the Pepperdine community. This group currently consists of Seaver students, faculty, staff and administration. All of us are working diligently as we discuss and work toward how we can make the campus climate more inclusive and accepting of all students.
So what has happened since last year? After careful review of the suggestions listed and copious amounts of discussion, It was decided that banning Yik Yak from all Pepperdine internet servers or Wi-Fi connections would just become a bandage on a much larger issue at hand. The issue of transforming the hearts and minds is the ultimate goal, and one way this can be achieved is by creating innovative ways for students of color to be represented on campus.
Other areas of progress include the big white space next to the fireplace: Yes, the mural is gone. This has been a major breakthrough, but we are still advocating for the complete removal of the Christopher Columbus statue. The conversations about what the university could do with it are lead by the steadfast hard-work and dedication of concerned students, still pushing for some form of change in regards to the statue.
We will also continue to push for the development of a general education requirement course that focuses on cultural competency, diversity and inclusion. Currently, there is a GE task force comprised of students and faculty from various cultural backgrounds and disciplines that are working to see this suggestion come to fruition.
With all of this being said, I recognize that Pepperdine is a world-class institution with an enormous amount of potential. However, it is imperative that we move more expediently when it comes to achieving cultural competency and diversity for the entire university. Yes, we are top 50, but numbers are meaningless if we are not providing a safe and comfortable space for students of color.
On May 9, 2006 Congressman Solomon Ortiz stated on National Teachers Day, “Education is the key to success.” If Pepperdine continues to fail at educating its students on these crucial topics, we will no longer be able to critique the problem; we will become a part of it. We must step out of our comfort zones and arrive at a place where we can unapologetically celebrate each and every student.
It is the job of administrators, faculty, staff and students to continue to advocate for inclusivity, so one day each of us can look back and be proud that we were a part of this community. It’s in our spirit and our mission to get there, and it’s important we maintain our momentum along the way.
Follow the BSA on Instagram: @PepperdineBSA