A Message from President Gash: Summer and Fall Planning

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As the spring semester comes to a close, I congratulate the Class of 2020 graduates from each of our five schools with my greatest pride and admiration. Once students at the Caruso School of Law finish finals this week, all five schools will have completed the spring semester. To every graduate, you have endured much and you have prevailed. The completion of a rigorous, world-class Pepperdine degree program is a monumental achievement in life. I would also like to offer my thanks to our tireless faculty, staff, and administration for supporting our students in achieving their academic aspirations. 

Now, just like our graduates, we are all looking to the future and wondering what the rest of the calendar year will hold. The general direction that we have received from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is its hope that schools, colleges, and universities can be open in the fall with in-person classes and on-campus housing. We anticipate that safety measures will continue to be in place to safeguard against the spread of the virus and to protect those most vulnerable, and L.A. County Public Health has indicated that these measures will likely include appropriate distancing, face masks, and no large gatherings. While the University still does not have enough information to make final decisions for the fall, we are encouraged at the likelihood that we will be back together on campus in August.

Presently, University leadership is completing a comprehensive COVID-19 strategic recovery plan to bring the Pepperdine community back to our campuses for fall classes. Deans are meeting with the faculty of each school to incorporate faculty feedback into our planning, and we will continue to work closely with L.A. Public Health and keep you updated as we finalize this plan over the next couple of weeks.

Summer 2020 Planning

As I mentioned in my President’s Briefing this week, I want to inform you of our plans for classes, housing, and safety as we turn our attention to the summer and fall terms at Pepperdine. As we have previously announced, the Seaver College May summer session—a newly designated Session A just for this year—will be held online. Additionally, based on the latest information the University has received from L.A. County Public Health, Seaver College announced this week that Session I in June will be held online, and all four graduate schools have also made the decision to hold their summer programs online. We plan to make a decision in early June regarding Seaver College Sessions II and III, which are scheduled for July. 

Fall 2020 Scenario Planning – In Person

As I shared in the President’s Briefing on April 27 and again this week, University leadership is intensely engaged in scenario planning for the fall semester, and the COVID-19 strategic recovery plan to re-open for the fall semester will keep the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students as our highest priority. To fulfill that objective, our plan must include clear and robust measures for testing, treating, tracing, separating, operating, cleaning, and delivering academic excellence. This plan will also presume an ability to hold classes in-person on all of our campuses worldwide unless or until there are public health restrictions that prohibit us from doing so. We plan to announce our proposed fall schedule within two weeks—once we have completed our scenario planning and vetted our plan with the Steering Team, faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Regents.

Fall 2020 International Programs

A significant factor in determining whether our international campuses will be open this fall will be the orders of the countries where our properties are located. At this time, we are making plans with the intent to have study abroad programs for all schools operating this fall while we await formal guidance from foreign governments or global agencies to inform final decisions. We will, of course, be working diligently to understand what each of these countries plans to allow this fall, and we will continue to provide information to students as it becomes available.

Fall 2020 On-Campus Housing

The scope of social distancing regulations in the fall and how those measures will impact university campuses is still evolving. Pepperdine is in regular communication with L.A. County Public Health and, based upon their guidance, we are planning, once again, to offer on-campus housing to all or nearly all of the incoming, returning, and graduate students who seek to live on campus. We are preparing the proper protocols to make this residential living experience as safe and enjoyable as possible under the current circumstances. If the guidance from L.A. County Public Health changes to require us to restrict or reconfigure our residential housing plans such that we would need to reduce the number of students living on campus, we will immediately notify those planning to live on campus. We continue to evaluate and plan for various scenarios that we may encounter in order to be prepared for whatever public health guidance may be provided to universities.

CARES Act Funding

As we announced last week, we are grateful that the University expects to receive $3.6 million of CARES Act funding. All of this funding will be directed toward supporting our students, with $1.8 million allocated for payments to be made directly to students through an application process. The University began accepting student applications for CARES Act funding on May 1 and will continue the application process through May 31. We received nearly 500 applications on the first day alone totaling more than $2.2 million in requests, and we are mindful that this crisis has impacted many of our students in a variety of different ways. CARES Act funding is designed to address those hit hardest by COVID-related losses or hardships, and as we evaluate applications, we intend to help as many students as possible with the funding we have received.

Celebrating the Academic Year

In the midst of trying times, pausing to celebrate victories along the way has never been more important. As a community, we should be proud of our response to this urgent crisis and commend the impact our servant-leadership has had around the world. So many people worked tirelessly to bring this spring semester home. Faculty have spent countless hours transferring their courses online. Staff have spent sleepless nights reinventing schedules, scenarios, and student support. Students have moved home, set up shop, and figured out how to learn remotely. Each of these efforts is truly amazing, and you all are worth celebrating. I am so thankful for the heart, perseverance, grit, and service of our Waves family. Our Pepperdine community is truly special.