Pepperdine students call Columbus statue 'celebration of genocide'
Pepperdine University students spent their day off Monday protesting Christopher Columbus’ “culturally insensitive form of international exploration” and demanding that an on-campus statue of him be removed.
According to The Pepperdine Graphic, at least 40 students gathered around the donated statue Monday to issue a statement to their school’s administration that called the holiday a “celebration of genocide and racial oppression.”
The statement also blamed the statue for prioritizing “nominally esteemed university donors above the cultural acceptance and personal experience of marginalized students” while memorializing “an avoidance from wholly enhancing the inclusivity of Seaver College.”
Notably, the protesters went on to call the memorial to Columbus an affront to the school’s Christian principles, with one student saying “Columbus does not represent Pepperdine University’s Christian values and morals,” nor does it “represent the affirmation that students are at the heart of educational enterprise.”
The activists, who call themselves “Waves Against Columbus,” are demanding that the school remove the statue from campus, and vow to wear commemorative white ribbons on their persons at all times until the statue is torn down.
“Our refusal to remain idle to this issue is commemorated in the white ribbon—symbolizing our memorialization of the indigenous lives lost as a result of European colonization,” the statement elaborated.
While the administration has not explicitly addressed demands to discard the statue, both the president and the dean released statements Monday in response to the protest. Both statements express support for the right of students to express their opinions, but offer starkly contrasting appraisals of their underlying demand.
“Since I knew those who argued for the statue we have today, I can’t forget the sincerity of their intent,” Pepperdine President Andrew Benton told the Graphic, noting that “our Italian-American friends” had lobbied for and funded the Columbus statue.
“My colleagues and I will listen carefully to those who disagree with the artistic rendition present today and we will measure those thoughts against others who have spoken,” he added noncommittally. “In my view, it is important to listen to all voices.”
Pepperdine Dean Michael Feltner was even more enthusiastic about the demonstrators, saying he fully supports their “peaceful, yet powerful” protest and implying that he agrees with their position.
“Seaver College is committed to creating a campus climate that is inclusive and respectful of all people in our community,” he wrote. “We have made great strides in this effort during the past year, but the protest indicates that our community still has issues to address. I welcome the comments provided by ‘Waves Against Columbus’ student group and appreciate their efforts to advocate for change at Pepperdine.”
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