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Presidential Action Steps

Dear Pepperdine community:

During these past 15 months as president, I have endeavored to listen to our community and to glean wisdom from the immensely diverse experiences represented on our campuses. I'm committed to continuing to listen and learn alongside each of you. In recent days, I've heard and seen many in our community in distress over recent events. I want you to know that I hear you and I see you. As Provost Marrs said on Monday and as I have said previously—we reject all forms of racism in our community and stand united with our Black students, faculty, and staff. We also believe it isn't enough to just listen and to enhance awareness. We must take action that leads to a broad and abiding sense among our entire community that Pepperdine is a community where everyone belongs.

As you may recall, this past summer, I appointed a Presidential Action Advisory Team (PAAT) to gather, analyze, and propose specific action steps to help us reach our aspirations to build a community of deep belonging. I have now had the opportunity to review the list of recommendations delivered to me recently by the PAAT and will begin the process of implementing the first of these action steps.

The PAAT's recommendations are organized under seven key areas including Curriculum, Hiring, Diversity and Inclusion Education, Environment/Culture, Center for Diversity, Presidential Speaker Series, and Assessment.

As we envision our future, I am very pleased to announce the following action steps that we intend to implement in collaboration with the many and diverse stakeholders that it will take to address these all-important matters. We have already begun the process with many of these initiatives and will continue to pursue them with diligence and alacrity.

Hire the Vice President for Community Belonging and Chief Diversity Officer

I recognize that our community is aware that this action step is well underway. I keep it here on this list, however, as a reminder of its importance to Pepperdine. We have retained a national search firm to help us in this process, and I am pleased to report that, to date, we have received the interest of 146 individuals, yielding 36 completed applications. Additionally, 20 more individuals have indicated their intent to apply. Three weeks remain in this initial phase for receiving applications in our ongoing national search, and we will begin the application review process in the next few weeks. Please pray for us as we continue this effort.

To be clear, the vice president for community belonging (VPCB) is not a perfunctory position. I intend for it to be appropriately resourced to lead us in this most weighty work. The position will have an executive assistant and an ample budget to support important and strategic initiatives for helping to build and sustain a unified community of belonging. As a senior officer of the University reporting directly to me, the VPCB will have a clear directive from my office to identify and implement appropriate actions across the institution. It is important to remember that filling this role will not relieve any of us from the individual and collective work we must do to build and maintain unity and belonging in our community.

Launch a Presidential Speaker Series

We are in the process of scheduling nationally esteemed scholars representing diverse points of view to examine the current issues of our day, focusing first on topics surrounding racial justice. We aspire for Pepperdine to be a place where we invite vigorous dialogue from diverse viewpoints to discuss difficult issues with honor and through civil discourse.

Review Hiring and Retention Practices

I am asking Human Resources to review our recruiting and hiring practices. We want to embrace best practices to promote inclusive hiring and ensure that supervisors across the institution are attentive to implicit bias. We will also be discussing strategies for retaining more employees of color and providing more, relevant resources to supervisor

Evaluate Curriculum

I am requesting that deans and faculty groups evaluate relevant curriculum at each school through the lens of inclusion, as well as initiating internal scholarly discussions on topics relating to racial justice to ensure the representation and inclusion of multiple perspectives and voices. I intend to personally convene and participate in some of these conversations.

Implement Diversity and Inclusion Education

The VPCB will be tasked with developing and implementing diversity and inclusion education, including cultural competence and cultural humility, to be made available to faculty, staff, students, and all levels of administration. I have also scheduled a meeting with our International Programs team to discuss assessment and/or implementation of cultural competence education for students from each school preparing to study abroad in another culture.

Partner with Student Affairs

I am asking Student Affairs and other relevant departments to assess and identify strategies to more fully support our students of color, including through collaboratively engaging in a thorough review for diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices of student clubs and organizations, the Office of Student Accessibility, Veterans Services, Intercultural Affairs, and Housing and Residence Life.

Renewing the Pepperdine Civil Rights Spring Break Trip

The University is renewing our civil rights spring break trip, which serves to empower, foster leadership, and educate students on past and present day matters of equity. While calendar changes necessitated by COVID-19 may prohibit us from scheduling a trip in 2021, we will secure the necessary funding and work with Student Affairs to begin the process of planning future trip details and administrative support for this life-changing experience. This trip, which I hope to join, isn't just a meaningful experience for those who participate. Our students return to us sharing their experience and building more wisdom, vision, and empathy within our community.

Publicly Display Our Diversity and History

We appreciate the value of visual symbolism representing our commitment to diversity. Presently, we are working with Chumash representatives on a display that will recognize and honor the Chumash people who previously inhabited the mountains upon which Pepperdine's Malibu campus is built. Earlier this year, we enhanced a symbol of the international diversity at Pepperdine when we reconstructed our Waves Cafe flag display to include flags representing the nation of origin for every United Nations-recognized country of each of our international students.

Survey and Support Admissions

I will be meeting with admissions staff from each school to discuss implementing a review of admissions and recruitment trends, practices, and resources needed in each school, as well as student engagement services and scholarship opportunities.

Explore the Creation of a Center for Diversity and Belonging

Our VPCB will be tasked with exploring the creation of a potentially endowed center on campus, which could help facilitate our plans for intentional collaboration with all five schools toward building a community of belonging, providing a repository of events and initiatives, collaborating with the local community, implementing programs with speakers and panels, recruiting and retaining Pepperdine community members, and leading the robust assessment of all diversity and belonging efforts.

Measure What We Value

We all know that we value what we measure. Therefore, in order to objectively evaluate the ongoing effectiveness of these measures, we will significantly enhance our assessments in coordination with Pepperdine's Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

I welcome continued dialogue and encourage you to share your thoughts with me. It is critical that we at Pepperdine acknowledge our past, listen to and understand each other now, and take intentional action to set us on a course that will define us for decades to come as a welcoming and unified community.

Sincerely,
Jim