Art by Ally Armstrong
Typically bustling Pepperdine locations like Payson Library and Alumni Park remain closed, and the University continues to prohibit off-campus students from entering campus absent an exception. Other universities in the area mirrored Pepperdine’s decision to shut down campus and its resources as a result of Los Angeles County health orders.
Following the announcement that all fall 2020 classes would be remote and on-campus access limited to only those with no alternative housing options, President Jim Gash announced Aug. 19 that LA County Department of Public Health orders prohibited off-campus students from coming to campus and banned on-campus events.
“We would love to [be more open], is the bottom line,” said Connie Horton, vice president for Student Affairs. “We miss students. We wish we could allow you on. We hope we are helping people get what they need.”
County health guidelines require institutions of higher education in LA to limit access to campus for non-essential visitors “to the greatest extent permitted by the law,” according to LA County health protocols. The restrictions also prohibit in-person lectures and gatherings at institutions of higher education in LA.
Complying with these orders is only one reason Pepperdine made the decision to limit access to campus. Other motivations were the desire to uphold the safety of students, faculty and staff and “contribute to the greater public health,” Horton said.
Two other LA schools — Loyola Marymount University and the University of Southern California — imposed restrictions similar to Pepperdine’s as a result of LA County’s protocols.
At LMU, on-campus housing is limited, the library is closed and on-campus gatherings are prohibited. Undergraduate instruction is entirely remote, and those approved to enter campus must fill out a daily wellness check similar to Pepperdine’s.
All USC-sponsored events are also prohibited on and off campus, and library buildings are closed to the public. Additionally, all courses are online, and campus access is limited and requires a daily health form.
Pepperdine is ready to reopen campus resources if LA County updates health protocols to allow it, Horton said. Nonetheless, Pepperdine does not anticipate any new guidance until after Thanksgiving, at which point the semester will be over.
According to responses to an anonymous Sept. 1 Graphic survey of 59 students, over 50% of students surveyed would go to campus if on-campus resources were reopened.
This chart reflects student responses to the statement “If Pepperdine where to open for on-campus resources, I would go to campus,” in an anonymous Sept. 1 Graphic survey. Over half of the 59 students surveyed strongly agreed with the statement. Graphic by Ashley Mowreader
Sophomore Jack Holcombe lives in Malibu and said while he would prefer access to campus, he supports Pepperdine’s decision.
Although Payson is closed, librarians remain available through the library website, and print books are available through Pepperdine Libraries’ newly announced mail delivery service.
Rare exceptions permit off-campus students to come to campus to pick up an item or go to the Student Health Center, Horton said. Exceptions were more common at the beginning of the semester, when students who left their cars on campus in the spring returned to retrieve them. Pepperdine is not allowing students access to campus for any social reasons, such as using Payson Library or going to club events, Horton said.
To come to campus, students must contact Stacy Montgomery, who confirms the legitimacy of their reason and then makes arrangements with the Department of Public Safety to allow the student to briefly visit campus.
Horton said it is important to maintain compliance and cooperate fully with LA County to ensure a smoother reopening process once health orders permit it.
Horton also said Pepperdine and the Emergency Operations Committee are in frequent contact with the county and have great familiarity with the current health guidance.
“Our folks are so connected to the LA and the State people,” Horton said. “We are in there; we are having meetings and phone calls and updates and clarifications all the time with them.”
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Email Natalie Hardt: firstname.lastname@example.org