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Pepperdine
President Insists School Has No Position on Prop. 8

Pepperdine
President Insists School Has No Position on Prop. 8

Pepperdine University president Andrew Benton sent a message Tuesday to students and staff about the university's mandate to maintain neutrality regarding political messages and candidates, despite a Pepperdine law professor's televised ad supporting California's Proposition 8.

Pepperdine University president Andrew Benton sent a message Tuesday to students and staff about the university's mandate to maintain neutrality regarding political messages and candidates, despite a Pepperdine law professor's televised ad supporting California's Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Faculty and students at the Malibu, Calif., Catholic university, as well as alumni and donors, have spoken out about the prominence of Pepperdine's name in the commercials.

"Without any involvement in the campaign, Pepperdine has been lionized and vilified," Benton wrote earlier this week. "We have been given credit where it is not due and blamed beyond anyone's wildest imaginings. I, and perhaps many of you, continue to receive words of praise and condemnation from people who are either thanking us or sharply criticizing us. Whether the writers are for or against Prop. 8, I take no comfort from either position as it puts us where we don't belong -- in partisan politics."

Prof. Richard Peterson has appeared in two Yes on Prop. 8 television commercials, identifying himself as a Pepperdine faculty member. Benton demanded that the organization sponsoring the messages, Protect Marriage, remove all references to Pepperdine after the first commercial aired September 29 on stations across California. The second commercial, which began airing October 8, also identified Peterson as a Pepperdine law professor, but added a disclaimer in very small print along the bottom of the screen explaining that the Pepperdine name was displayed for "identification purposes only."

Jerry Derloschon, executive director of public relations for Pepperdine, said the school allows faculty and students to exercise their rights to freedom of expression but that the university itself must remain neutral.

"The university is not a voting block," he told The Advocate on Friday, adding, "Imagine if universities could use their weight to impress upon staff and students on which way to vote. That would be absurd." (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)

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