Since shifting to remote instruction in mid-March, Pepperdine leadership has been carefully monitoring the activity of COVID-19 and closely evaluating the evolving governmental guidance with a goal to reopen our campuses for in-person instruction as soon as it was safe for our Pepperdine community. Although it is still forthcoming, Governor Newsom’s long-awaited guidance for colleges and universities is expected to closely mirror the recently issued restrictions imposed last week for California’s public and private K-12 schools. This guidance, when applied to California’s four-stage reopening plan, effectively prohibits in-person instruction beginning in the fall for much of California, including in Los Angeles County.
This leaves uncertainty for colleges and universities, but little confidence that campuses will be allowed to reopen for the start of the fall term with in-person instruction in a way that reflects Pepperdine’s standards of excellence.
Online Instruction for the Fall Semester
Given these circumstances, we have decided we can best protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff by conducting our fall semester online. As you know, this was not the decision we had hoped or planned to make. Our faculty and staff and regents have worked tirelessly throughout the summer to prepare us for safe in-person instruction and on-campus housing. Although we are extremely disappointed that the renewed safety concerns are taking us in a different direction, we all believe this is the right decision for the health and safety of our Pepperdine family.
Therefore, even while we have been vigorously preparing for students to return to our campuses safely, we have also been preparing aggressively to provide a robust and excellent online educational experience just in case circumstances dictated that campuses could not reopen this fall. To that end, our faculty have also spent the summer preparing to provide world-class academic instruction online. Consequently, online classes will begin on the previously published schedules for each school.
Our ability to house students on campus is also directly impacted by state and county restrictions. We are not presently permitted to reopen our Malibu campus for normal residential life. However, we expect to receive permission soon to house students who can demonstrate a compelling hardship which necessitates residing in on-campus housing this fall. The deans of each school will be outlining, in subsequent communications, the application process for seeking a housing hardship exemption.
In the event the government’s guidance changes during the semester, we may revisit our options for potentially broadening our on-campus housing availability.
Pepperdine Restoration Plan
As we begin to return students with hardships to on-campus living, and if and when a broader return to campus can occur, our extensive summer planning efforts have positioned us to be fully prepared. Our Pepperdine Restoration Plan is complete and ready for implementation. We have instituted robust protocols to make our campuses safe environments. These protocols required significant investments in testing equipment, tracing resources, sanitation supplies and schedules, technology enhancements in our classrooms, plexiglass protection, and extensive changes and additions to our campuses to accommodate social distancing.
We have not tried in this communication to answer all of your specific questions because many of the detailed implications of this decision are school-specific. You can expect, therefore, to receive a detailed communication within the next 24 to 48 hours from the dean of your school that will specifically address the issues of housing, registration, schedules, and other important information. Pepperdine faculty and staff should expect a detailed communication from Human Resources this week.
Thank you for working together with us to make this fall a memorable and meaningful semester despite our challenging times. Pepperdine is an uncommonly strong community and we are equal to the task of taking on these challenges together and advancing our high calling as leaders in higher education.