Pepperdine Student Government Association president Ima Idahosa (center) noted at a recent campus-wide meeting, addressing racism at the school, that hateful racist comments were circulated across the campus in a computer app called Yik Yak. (photo courtesy of community.pepperdine.edu.)
The president of Pepperdine University has alleged that minority professors and students have been pulled over by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies in nearby Malibu for what he called “driving while black,” it was reported last week. University President Andrew K. Benton made the claim as he stood in front of an all-campus meeting on November 16 at the Malibu school’s auditorium, Malibu radio station KBUU-FM reported. The meeting was called after racist and hateful messages targeting minorities were posted on cellphone apps at the school.
Earlier this month, student activists staged demonstrations in the Student Center and administration building. They issued a list of demands that included mandatory sensitivity training for faculty and staff, and ethnic heritage classes for the nearly 3,500 Pepperdine undergraduate students. Student activists are also demanding the removal of a statue of Christopher Columbus from the center of the school, as well as the removal of a wooden carving in the Student Center that celebrates the California missions.
The activists say both are culturally insulting. Benton said Pepperdine was moving aggressively to hire more minority professors, and noted that 38 percent of the recent hires for tenure-track undergraduate teaching jobs were minority. The meeting was closed to outside reporters, but the school issued a video of it on Wednesday November 18. Benton told the assembly he was speaking with students and staff about racial issues.
“In one conversation … and I had heard the phrase driving while black … I was stunned and surprised to learn that several members of our campus community – faculty and students – have been pulled over for nothing more than that.”
Benton said the claims spurred a school administrator to meet with sheriff’s commanders at the nearby Malibu-Lost Hills station.
“Profiling (for) driving while black is wrong. Profiling is wrong. It is frightening, it is demeaning, threatening, it is wrong,” he said, according to a transcript of his speech made by KBUU-FM.
Benton publicly faulted himself and other administrators for not having told the minority students or staff who had made the complaint, that the school had contacted the sheriff’s office. Officials at the Malibu-Lost Hills station did not have an immediate reaction. A Pepperdine spokeswoman said she had no specific dates or other information about the alleged harassment of minorities.
At the same campus-wide meeting, Student Government Association president Ima Idahosa noted the hateful racist comments, which were circulated across the campus in a computer app called Yik Yak.
“In light of recent and ongoing events around the nation, and on this campus, we are here to formally begin a conversation that will bring about a shift for change,” said Idahosa, who is African-American.
“Tonight is not just about Yik Yak and other anonymous social media outlets. It is not just about micro-aggressions and incentive comments.
“Tonight is about the well-being of our students, as individuals. who feel unwelcome and threatened as to how others view their racial identities,” she said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies patrol Malibu, under a contract with the city.