Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author, and publication in the Graphic in no way represents an endorsement. This space is provided to allow public response and commentary on articles and issues that are covered by the Graphic and important to its readership.
I am glad that Pepperdine understands the value of its traditions and rituals. A few immediately come to mind — Songfest, the midnight scream (does that still happen?), painting the rock and, more solemnly, the 9/11 flag tribute (a touching annual event that arose after my time at Seaver). These events and experiences connect generations of Seaver students and sometimes host treasured memories. The best of these traditions naturally develop out of the student experience and, likewise, are naturally passed down from class to class. Administrative meddling in tradition, on the other hand, can result in forced (e.g., “We Will Climb,” the new alma mater) or self-conscious (e.g., Pepperdine’s multiple iterations of wave mascots) attempts at culture-making.
For these reasons, I’m skeptical that the best way to support Pepperdine’s existing traditions is a top-down approach, much less one overseen by Dunne, an individual with little-to-no ties to Pepperdine. With all due respect to Dunne, his initial contribution to Pepperdine’s traditions — the aforementioned alma mater — provides little reason to believe that he will tap existing traditions as opposed to imposing new ones. To be fair, this is not Dunne’s fault — he was asked to write a song, and he did so consistent with his oeuvre. Instead, in selecting an alma mater, Pepperdine could have begun by examining its existing songbook. Why not “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” as traditionally sung at the end of Songfest? Or, in recognition of the University’s Church of Christ heritage, a hymn like “Our God, He is Alive,” or another song that could spontaneously be sung a cappella by a gathering of students? Likewise, attention should have been paid to the nature of an alma mater, which derives most of its emotional power from the mere fact that it is shared and sung together over time, not its arrangement — including swelling strings — or even its aspirational lyrics.
In fostering its traditions, I hope the administration and Dunne perpetuate and honor what is and has been present at Pepperdine instead of rebranding existing rituals or attempting to create new ones.
– Paul Bost (Seaver ’02)
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic