Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author, and publication in the Graphic in no way represent an endorsement of any opinions published. This space is provided to allow public response and commentary on articles and issues which are covered by the Graphic and important to its readership.
Dear Pepperdine Community,
On Oct. 15, we read the Graphic article “School of Public Policy Dean Shares Petition Against ‘Far Left Indoctrinating Curriculum,’” and we are incredibly disappointed with Dean Peterson’s inconsiderate words and actions. In this letter, we hope to lay out why we think Dean Peterson’s actions are deplorable and list our demands for the Pepperdine administration.
Dean Peterson’s actions are reprehensible because they are a rebuff to the student leaders who attended the Presidential Action Advisory Team meetings. While PAAT meetings were a space to talk about tangible steps toward more equity, diversity and inclusion at Pepperdine, these meetings were also a space for self-reflection to wrestle individually with biases and racial identity. On multiple occasions, colleagues engaged with Dean Peterson about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion by hiring the Chief Diversity Officer and implementing social justice GE courses. But as seen through Dean Peterson’s recent “Far left Indoctrinating” petition, even after all of these dialogues, Dean Peterson failed to grasp the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in curriculum at Pepperdine and in daily life.
Additionally, those who witnessed Dean Peterson commit to racial healing in the U.S. during the Jericho Challenge see his words at the Eric Metaxas Radio Show as antithetical to his commitments. His direct and indirect actions against the 1619 Project contribute to additional marginalization of the Black community in the United States rather than racial healing.
Most importantly, Dean Peterson’s actions are deeply hurtful to Black students at Pepperdine, who are already yearning to feel heard, valued and respected. His statements come across as an attempt to suppress history and neglect people’s racialized experiences. A significant part of the fight for justice is exposing the truth and telling stories that have been hidden for so long; Dean Peterson’s actions function as a deliberate attempt to block collective consciousness to oppression. The same students this university claims to care for are exhausted — tired of having to continually fight for our collective dignity at the very institution we attend. We are tired of repeatedly feeling forced to speak up and address this institution’s leaders’ outlandish actions. From the severity of COVID-19 to the relentless terror of police brutality, and now the overt disrespect for Pepperdine’s students of color, our feelings of hopelessness in the University’s care for marginalized groups are at an all-time high.
As members of various organizations on campus dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion, we find Dean Peterson’s actions out of line. We cannot overstate the hurt we feel as a result of his behavior. As such, we demand that paid professional Pepperdine leaders publicly denounce Dean Peterson’s heinous actions and provide an apology to all students at Pepperdine’s five schools. Furthermore, we ask that serious thought is given to Peterson’s position as of the School of Public Policy since his actions are hostile to students of color at Pepperdine.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Black Student Association
Crossroads Gender and Sexuality Alliance
First Generation College Students Club
Indigenous People’s Club
Student Government Association Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council