MALIBU—Following a peaceful demonstration on November 13, president of Pepperdine University Andrew K. Benton gave a speech commending the student protesters. He addressed the broader climate of racism in the school and in the Los Angeles area, in particular criticizing traffic police (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies) in Malibu for performing “driving while black” stops.
“I was stunned and surprised to learn that several members of our campus community, faculty and students, had been pulled over in Malibu for nothing more than that. Driving while black,” Brenton said in his speech Monday , which became available Thursday via YouTube.
He continued, “I was touched when I read in the Los Angeles Times that the SGA [Student Gerontology Association] leader at USC was subjected to racial slurs on her own campus. I thought to myself then and I think it’s still true now that she deserves better than that, and so does USC, and by the way so does Pepperdine, so does Pepperdine, for we have our own stories.”
Brenton related a story in which a Mexican student was harassed on an LAX shuttle, cursed at and criticized for being “here to harm America,” and then continued, “So my senses are heightened to what our students are facing… Profiling [for] ‘driving while black’ is wrong. Profiling is wrong. It is frightening, it is demeaning, threatening, it is wrong.”
The full speech begins at 5:03:
President Benton’s statements come during a time of increased awareness of racial tensions on campus. Last Friday, Pepperdine students protested in solidarity with University of Missouri students whose own protests caused their president to resign. Students at Pepperdine promoted the hashtag #wavesagainstignorance. The protests weren’t merely to express solidarity with other colleges dealing with racism problems; Pepperdine recently saw a slew of racist comments emerge via gossip sites Juicy Campus and Yik Yak.
The protests also called for the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue and mural of early California missions.
President Benton made the following comments last week following Friday’s demonstration: “Thinking specifically of the recent issues, I think it starts with laying a good foundation of communication before you ever have a problem. And I think that presidents and chancellors would be very well advised to know their student body, and to communicate with them, and to be known, because if you’re not known, you’re not trusted.”