Art by Mary Karapetyan
In the midst of Black History Month, the word diversity echoes throughout campus. Diversity is at the core of Pepperdine’s values as all people were created equitably in the eyes of God. As a result, one should expect to see diversity reflected on campus, more specifically in the classroom. However, that is far from the truth.
Nearly 75% of the faculty at Seaver College identify as white, according to Seaver College’s Diversity and Inclusion Dashboard. More alarmingly, Hispanic and Black faculty account for only 7.4% and 6.1% of the racial diversity pool, respectively.
Pepperdine ranks No. 615 out of 3,790 schools in College Factual’s racial diversity ranking. Although not a terrible score, it certainly reflects that Pepperdine needs to do more work to improve the diversity pool on campus.
Throughout my academic career at Pepperdine, I have taken classes with about 30 professors, only one of which happened to be of my race, Black. As a result, I am often left to depend on a professor’s previous work or teaching experience as a measure of how culturally aware they are.
Although the professors at Pepperdine tend to be significantly more approachable than those at other universities due to the small faculty to student ratio, the lack of representation makes me question if I am understood or accepted here. Unfortunately, this lack of faculty diversity creates a hostile learning environment for minority students.
The infamous @Blackatpepperdine Instagram account brought to light many of the student-faculty experiences and emphasized the need for more faculty diversity due to micro-aggressions or blatant racism toward minority students.
A post on July 28, 2020 recounted an experience when a professor allegedly portrayed a racial stereotype of Black households being low income and unstable in comparison to their white counterparts.
Another post from July 7, 2020 shared a Black student experience during a class presentation about affirmative action, where allegedly the overall message was that “most Black people don’t deserve to be at Pepperdine.”
On Aug. 25, 2020, the account highlighted a professor allegedly calling a Black student a racial slur and allegedly facing no consequences for doing so. The lack of sensitivity and empathy shown for minority students shared in student stories is appalling.
Despite the negative experiences minority students have encountered when interacting with faculty members, there have been some positive ones.
Junior Sherwin McDonald recounted two experiences with a professor who identified as a person of color. Notably, McDonald said he was more comfortable asking for help and going to office hours.
“These two professors actually cared about my success and extended further support outside of the classroom environment,” McDonald said.
Sophomore Aubrey Lewis is bi-racial. The bi-racial community is presented with unique challenges when it comes to finding a sense of belonging as it can be difficult to be accepted by either racial identity. Bi-racial students account for 7.4% of the student racial diversity pool and bi-racial employees account for 3%.
Lewis’ sole experience with a faculty member who was of her same ethnicity prompted one-on-one conversations where she could comfortably discuss how she was assimilating into the Pepperdine community.
“My professor made an effort to meet every student in the class privately and wanted to ensure not only our academic success but our overall success in college,” Lewis said.
It is already challenging being a minority student at a predominantly white institution, but we need the extra support through faculty who look like us and can relate to us, especially considering the George Floyd protests that occurred in June 2020, when social injustice was at the forefront of the United States social paradigm.
This disparity in faculty diversity not only imposes significant disadvantages to minority students but also can contribute to the indoctrination of white students with closed-minded, unrealistic ideas about the real world.
More journalistic investigation is needed with regard to how Pepperdine goes about its hiring process of faculty members, in addition to the retention rates of faculty that identify as people of color.
The University is doing more harm than good by continuing to recruit minority students to attend Seaver College without addressing this key issue. There is no doubt that an improved faculty diversity pool is needed to foster a sense of belonging for all members of the community.
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