The sun shines on Malibu campus during a bright August day, with no students in sight. On-campus residential living remained mostly closed to students for the 2021 academic year, with the exception of students with hardship accommodations. Photo by Ali Levens
As COVID-19 cases drop in LA County and more University employees receive vaccinations. Pepperdine Housing and Residence Life prepares to house students at full capacity during a fully-reopened fall 2021.
Pepperdine, under county guidance, is unable to house students other than those experiencing hardship for the 2021 academic year but hopes to provide on-campus housing over the summer and plans to do so for the fall.
“We certainly can’t guarantee it, but based on what we know, we are planning as though the fall will be full capacity,” said Director of Housing Operations Robin Gore.
Pepperdine released its Restoration Plan in May 2020, detailing the University’s strategies for reopening in regard to campus safety, COVID-19 testing, isolation protocols and more.
For fall 2021, Gore said she thinks many of these guidelines detailed in the restoration plan — like the mandatory Daily Wellness Check, mask-wearing and social distancing — will remain in place unless county guidance dictates otherwise.
The University is considering surveillance COVID-19 testing in the fall, Gore said. Other universities, like University of California, Berkeley, randomly test residential students to help maintain health in the community, and Pepperdine might follow a similar route with an increase of students living on campus in the fall.
Despite the high number of students living off-campus for the 2021 academic year, Gore said fall 2021 numbers are projected to be normal — near the 2,500 student capacity available, which Gore said she thinks is due to student excitement.
“I think there’s plenty of students that want the opportunity to live on campus,” Gore said.
Pepperdine planned to waive the residency requirement for students for fall 2020 – allowing sophomores to live off-campus and only allowing first-years in the dorms if they were enrolled in in-person classes. For fall 2021, Gore said the residency requirement will be fully in place for first and second-year students.
Changes To Housing and Residence Life
Living on campus is more than just a residential location; Pepperdine boasts its HRL program for fostering community, authentic relationships and building student resilience, according to the HRL website.
During the 2021 academic year, Residence Life employees’ roles changed as they could not offer in-person programming events and helped enforce COVID-19 protocols as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, Director of Residence Life Maura Page said.
For the fall, Page and Gore anticipate offering in-person events, though a little different from a usual year.
“We will want to keep all types of communities safe, and so there will be some differences in maybe how things are delivered, but the actual topics of what’s delivered in those programs — the great events that we do, we still want to do those — it just might look a little different,” Gore said.
New to HRL this year are three interest communities: RISE resilience community in Seaside, Gaming and Esports, and Global Intersect Community in Towers. HRL planned to soft-launch the communities in fall 2020, and despite the trial phase, interest has remained high both in student leaders and students, Page said.
“It’s very apparent that students want to be connected with others and I wonder if — we haven’t done survey data on this — but we wonder if it’s because the current first-year students didn’t have that type of community and those that are not going abroad that second year really are looking for more of those intimate niche type communities,” Gore said.
For the 2021 academic year, HRL student employees — Resident Advisors and Spiritual Life Advisors — were hired early March and will begin their responsibilities in August following training.
Juniors Michaela Gromer and Aniah Weaks were both hired March 2020 to be RAs in first-year dorms. Both Gromer and Weaks reapplied this February and were rehired by HRL for the 2022 academic year.
“I’m very excited,” Weaks said. “I haven’t been on campus in a year so just being back in that environment, I’m super about it and just being with the freshmen.”
With the current county guidance, Page and Gore said they anticipate RAs and SLAs will continue to enforce COVID-19 guidance like masking protocols and social distancing.
“I feel like it’s gonna be difficult to keep those COVID-19 regulations just because, I know how important they are but, knowing how students are wanting to be with their friends and hang out in their dorms and just things like that, I know it’s going to be difficult to uphold them,” Weaks said.
Gromer said she wants to be a good role model in her role as an RA, especially with COVID-19 guidance.
“I have a group chat with the two other people in my triad and they’re amazing,” Gromer said. “I’m so excited, but I haven’t even thought about reach out to them to see each other just because I want to be a good example in this position.”
More changes may be on the horizon with the SLA role and the dissolution of the Convocation office in February, Page said, but regardless HRL will continue to evolve to best serve the Pepperdine study body.
“Part of Housing and Residence Life is adapting to the community and the community needs,” Page said. “So whatever we face, that’s always our goal — to adapt to the community, be responsive to the heart of the community and help build community within whatever contexts we have the opportunity to do that.”
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