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A Message from President Gash: COVID-19 Spring Semester Update

From Jim Gash, President and CEO

I want to begin this message by expressing my gratitude to you for the grace and understanding you've shown to the entire Pepperdine community as the University manages its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. You and your safety are our most important priorities at Pepperdine. To that end, over the last two months we've had to take some extremely difficult, unprecedented actions that have significantly impacted the academic experience for many of our students. We are confident they were the right decisions, but we also know how disappointed many of you were that your semesters or academic journeys haven't gone according to plan. We share your disappointment. Thank you for the support and comfort you have provided one another and for the resilience you continue to show in the face of adversity.

We have no information indicating that we have, or have had, on our campus any individual infected with COVID-19. Nevertheless, as Pepperdine looks toward the end of the spring semester, our Infectious Disease Task Force and Emergency Operations Committee, comprised of leaders from across the University, have been carefully evaluating the current situation our community is facing in light of continuing challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19. I can assure you that the decisions we have reached are the result of careful and deliberate thought, and reflect the views of Pepperdine's senior administration and the officers of the Board of Regents, as advised by our internal task force and committee, as well as our nationally recognized external consultants.

Consequently, Pepperdine will be taking the following steps:

Remote classes: The last day of scheduled in-person classes at all five schools and across every campus will be on Friday, March 13. These classes will transition to online beginning the week of March 16 and will continue online for the remainder of the spring semester. Faculty have been preparing for some time for this possible outcome and, having learned from our efforts during the Woolsey Fire, they will provide highly effective instruction via this remote alternative instruction format. Information and additional details about your specific courses and their formats will be provided to you by your professors and/or deans over the next day or two. We are also giving special attention to our graduating students and carefully addressing their needs.
While Seaver Chapel has been canceled this morning, Seaver students and faculty are invited to attend an online informational town hall at 10 AM where further information will be provided. Additional details about the town hall will be sent to Seaver students and faculty in advance of this meeting. Students from our graduate schools will receive an update from their deans later today.

On-campus housing: As we move to an online learning format and minimize the concentration of people on the Malibu campus, we are asking all residential students to move out of their on-campus housing by 3 PM on Sunday, March 15. Exception requests for students who have a need to remain on campus can be made by completing this form . International students should also contact the Office of International Student Services to seek further guidance and support during this time. Pepperdine student athletes should coordinate directly with their coaches or the athletics director.

Campus events: The University is canceling or postponing non-essential Pepperdine events with expected attendance of 100 or more through the end of March. More information about athletic teams and their seasons will be communicated directly to the athletes and coaches. We sincerely hope we will be able to host commencement ceremonies as scheduled, but we will make a final decision on these events at a later date based upon information available at that time.

Faculty and staff: The University remains open, and staff will continue to work as normal during this period of academic transition to remote alternative instruction. Additional details for staff will be forthcoming, but know that your health and safety continue to come first. As we have communicated many times before, please stay home if you are sick and practice healthy habits. The University is also encouraging actions in the workplace that help minimize contact in large group settings. Individuals who may need additional accommodations are encouraged to work with their supervisors. As a reminder, all faculty and staff are encouraged to attend today's online informational town hall at 3 PM.

Travel restrictions: Pepperdine is restricting all non-essential international and domestic travel for employees through Tuesday, March 31. Determinations on what qualifies as essential should be discussed with your supervisor and must ultimately be approved by either the provost or the chief operating officer. All other restrictions and guidance for business and personal travel remain in effect. Please contact the Office of Emergency Services at 310.506.4996 with questions regarding University travel.

Pepperdine's leadership team will, of course, continue to follow the COVID-19 outbreak and to seek guidance from our local health agencies and retained expert consultants. Given the rapidly unfolding developments with this outbreak, we cannot know fully what to expect, but we will work with the school deans to resume normal operations as quickly as possible following the conclusion of the spring semester. The University continues to closely evaluate the status of both domestic and international summer programs, and decisions will be made over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we will continue to take the appropriate precautions to safeguard our community and do our part to protect the communities in our region.

We fully appreciate that these steps are inconvenient—even disruptive—and unlike any we've ever had to take before. Please know these decisions are made with great care, and with your health and safety as our top priority. Joline and I are praying for each of you and those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak around the globe. We are grateful for your understanding, your partnership, and your confidence in Pepperdine University.