Stauffer Chapel on Malibu campus hosts many convocation events over the years. The Convocation Office and the Convocation program faced changes in the coming months. Photo by Ashley Mowreader
Pepperdine let go of the Convocation Office’s full-time staff members, Convocation Director Gus Peterson and Administrative Coordinator Anneleise Graf, on Feb. 6, days before the start of the spring semester.
In an email to the Graphic on Feb. 17, Connie Horton, vice president for Student Affairs, wrote that spiritual life is being “reimagined,” resulting in staffing changes and certain positions being “phased out.”
Peterson shared on his Facebook page that he was no longer Director of Convocation at Pepperdine after being laid off, but did not specify when or why his employment status changed.
“Student Affairs and Spiritual Life Programs leadership are currently working to assess and enhance the spiritual life offerings for the 2021-2022 academic year as part of Pepperdine’s commitment to the spiritual development of our students,” according to a statement from Pepperdine administration emailed to the Graphic on Feb. 15.
University Chaplain Sara Barton did not confirm whether the Convocation staff are no longer employed by Pepperdine but reaffirmed that Student Affairs and Spiritual Life Programs are in the midst of “strengthening and enhancing” spiritual life offerings for students, Barton wrote in an email to the Graphic on Feb. 9. Barton’s office oversees both Convocation and Student-Led Ministries.
Pepperdine suspended the Convocation requirement with the transition to remote instruction in March, though the Spiritual Life Office has continued to provide resources for students throughout the past year.
Pepperdine administration told staff at a March President’s Briefing that there would be no furloughs through the end of the 2020 fiscal year, which ended July 31.
At an Aug. 11, President’s Briefing, President Jim Gash informed staff that if the University decides to “engage in some sort of furlough,” the individual would receive at least 30 days’ notice.
At an Aug. 26, President’s Briefing, Gash updated staff that there would be no furloughs or layoff’s through January 2021.
“We will evaluate at that time again where things are, always evaluating the financial health, always trying to ensure we protect our people to the greatest extent possible,” Gash said at the Aug. 26, President’s Briefing. “I ask you to hold me accountable, and I will continue to tell you what we’re deciding and why we’re deciding that.”
At a Nov. 11, President’s Briefing, Gash extended the commitment against furloughs or layoffs of U.S. employees due to COVID-19 as a cost-saving measure through spring 2021.
Staffing changes within Spiritual Life Programs, Horton wrote, are unrelated to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the University.
In the newly released Seaver 2030 strategic plan, Pepperdine shared that “the College and the University will reconsider the goals of convocation and its role in students’ spiritual development,” according to the website.
“As the departments evaluate the next steps that will shape the future of convocation and other spiritual life programs, Student Affairs and Spiritual Life Programs plan to share more information with the community in the next few months,” according to the administration’s Feb. 15, statement.
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