Pepperdine University announced last week that classes will be held primarily online in the fall 2020 semester.
Weeks before the latest announcement, the university released a restoration plan during the summer and said they were well-positioned to reopen for the fall semester.
“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,” Pepperdine President Jim Gash said in a message shared with the faculty, staff and students.
After Pepperdine announced the decision, parents, students and faculty created a discussion on Pepperdine’s Facebook page that garnered nearly 350 posts and raised questions on the quality of education students will receive in the fall.
Seaver College’s—Pepperdine’s undergraduate school—tuition will remain the same from the previously published amount of $28,875 for the online fall semester.
The Campus Life Fee, also called the Student Government Association Campus Life Fee, will be reduced to $63 for the fall 2020 semester. The fee was previously listed at $252 per student for the semester. And despite complaints from some parents— including one whose lawsuit over fees and tuition payments charged during the pandemic shutdown is still working its way through court—many Pepperdine parents and students have expressed support for the move.
One parent suggested Pepperdine consider allowing incoming freshmen the option of taking a gap year, due to missing the inperson experience. Another person commented that Pepperdine “buckled under the pressure,” writing, “If Walmart/Target/ Costco and grocery stores can stay open safely I think an institution of higher learning could easily figure out how to stay safe ... On top of that, they are charging full price for an inferior product. Online learning should be discounted heavily verses (sic) in class instruction.”
Marci Evans, parent of incoming Pepperdine student Josh Evans, said she was grateful her son will begin his first semester at Pepperdine online. She said her son was very excited to begin college and, although classes will be online, it will help give students an opportunity to build a supportive campus community.
“Pepperdine is putting everyone’s safety first. As the mom of an incoming freshman, I think Pepperdine is doing the morally correct choice putting the health of students, staff and the broader community first,” Evans said on Pepperdine’s Facebook post. “For the kids who aren’t as comfortable with online learning, hopefully they let those students defer, but in our son’s situation he’s going to be very happy and grateful to attend Pepperdine online.”
Josh, 17, is planning to major in psychology with a minor in economics and is taking five classes online in the fall semester. In an interview with The Malibu Times, Josh said he would feel safer at home in Boca Raton, Fla., during a coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think I will return in spring because I think the pandemic will still be going on, but when I hopefully return next fall, I would like to join the newspaper and join other clubs on campus, but when it’s safe,” Josh said.
Josh said he chose Pepperdine because of the campus environment, classroom size and the connection advisers have with students.
“The fact that you can really get to know your professors and grow close relationships with your advisers, they really want to get to know you, and that you’re not just a number,” Josh Evans said.
One parent of a first-year law student commented on the Facebook post that being off campus would be detrimental to her child’s education: “While we can appreciate the caution of moving forward it doesn’t change the difficulties our students face. How is our law student supposed to start school like this? No law library, no peers (iron sharpens iron), no physical community, no way for her to fully get what she needs out of this experience.”
As for international programs, Pepperdine has been following guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and suspended all Seaver College international programs for the fall, including its Shanghai, Florence, Heidelberg, Lausanne, London, Buenos Aires and Washington, DC campuses for the spring 2020 term.
Pepperdine sophomore Jessica Velicer was scheduled to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to study abroad in the fall semester; however, due to the pandemic, she will continue her classes online and be living near campus with roommates.
“I have to say as a current sophomore who was supposed to go abroad I am very excited to be taking online classes this fall,” Velicer wrote on the Pepperdine Facebook post. “The situation stinks for everyone but Pepperdine always does a superior job of supporting us students, keeping us connected and giving us a great education.”
Velicer said she was looking forward to taking classes online with her roommates.
“We actually are renting a beach house, so that even if things continue to get worse in LA, we won’t feel super cooped up,” Velicer said. “If the beaches close, we’ll still be able to enjoy the best part of Malibu—the beach! I’m super excited and grateful for this because hope fully it will make online classes easier since all my friends and I will be doing classes together at the same time.”
Velicer, who is on a biochemistry track, majoring in chemistry and minoring in sociology, said her first semester at Pepperdine was a great experience that helped her create the friendships she has now.
“[My roommates] Loren and Lily, I met them after I joined a sorority and I have to accredit a lot of the good experiences I’ve had at Pepperdine outside of school to not only them, but to all the incredible people I have met there,” Velicer said. “I have to say the community is just so amazing, that is probably what I will miss [about campus] most.”
The fall semester for Seaver College will begin on Aug. 17 and run through Nov. 24— Thanksgiving break.
Members of Pepperdine’s administration did not reply to interview requests by the time The Malibu Times went to print on Tuesday, July 28.