Social Media Distributes Information and Reactions Regarding Partial Campus Reopening

Infographic by Makena Huey

Social media is at the forefront following Pepperdine’s Tuesday, Feb. 23 announcement of a partial campus reopening. Members of the Pepperdine community utilize the various platforms to distribute information and share reactions, continuing to build community virtually even as they are able to return to the Malibu campus.

Due to improved COVID-19 rates in LA County, the LA Department of Public Health is permitting Pepperdine and other universities in the county to allow registered students, faculty and staff on campus for limited in-person activities starting Wednesday, Feb. 24, according to a Feb. 23, Public Relations email.

“Social media has rapidly evolved in utility and importance as a result of the pandemic,” SGA President Chase Johnson wrote in an email. “It provides some level of continuity to our community but sometimes can negatively affect our mental health. The strengths and weaknesses of social media use are important.”

University Communication

Following the official University email Tuesday, Feb. 23, Pepperdine posted a similar announcement on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.     View this post on Instagram           

A post shared by Pepperdine University (@pepperdine)

As of Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Instagram post had over 2,000 likes and around 10 comments.

Most of the feedback is positive, but several users have mentioned the last-minute nature of the announcement and the disappointment of students not living in the LA area.

One user commented, “You need to open for all the students, not just a limited few,” while another commented, “Bummer for all the students stuck at home in different states without their friends. Only exciting for the students who are already better off because they are in Malibu with their peers.”

Nate Ethell, director of Communications and Brand Development, said Pepperdine’s official and primary form of communication is email.

In the past, Pepperdine tried to share announcements via email and social media simultaneously. However, after hearing the frustration of students who first learned that campus would be closed for the fall 2020 semester from Instagram due to delayed emails, the University now ensures that emails are delivered before announcements are posted on social media, Ethell said.

The University uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud to email all students at the same time. The brief delay that some students experience is due to the nature of broadcast emails and is not in the University’s control, Ethell said.

“Social media is meant to be a supplemental form of communication to amplify the official emails,” Ethell said.

Ethell said University administrators are having regular conversations with LA County about the next steps for the Pepperdine community and will continue to update students via email and social media.

“Our goal is to provide clear, transparent and prompt information,” Ethell said.

Information from SGA 

Aside from official University announcements, one of the primary resources regarding the reopening is the Student Government Association’s social media posts, which condense lengthy updates into more concise, accessible information.

“SGA’s primary objective is to bridge the information and communication gap between the student body and administration,” Johnson wrote. “We’ve heard time and time again that students want a consistent pulse on decision-making.”

SGA’s Monday, Feb. 22 Instagram post provided information that students “need to know,” including maximum capacities and safety guidelines.     View this post on Instagram           

A post shared by Pepperdine SGA (@pepperdinesga)

Most of the comments on the post were positive, expressing excitement and hope through the use of emojis.

“From what I’ve seen, students are optimistic that we are moving in the right direction,” Johnson wrote. “There is excitement about the limited campus access that began today and renewed hope for even brighter days ahead.”

One student, however, commented: “Why though? The majority of us won’t be able to get the vaccine until at least may so are they really going to bring thousands of unvaccinated students who haven’t seen each other in a year? That seems so stupid.”

SGA’s Instagram bio contains links related to the reopening, including to the Daily Wellness Check and Payson Library reservations.

Johnson wrote that he believes students value social media posts just as much as emails when it comes to Pepperdine-related news; representatives will continue to answer students’ questions and share University updates while making an effort to engage students unable to visit campus.

Social Media Reactions

One day after Pepperdine posted a reel of the scenic bird’s-eye-view of campus, students took to various social media platforms to react to the news of the ability to return to campus after 11 months. Photos of Alumni Park and main campus flooded Instagram stories, and President Jim Gash posted a photo of himself welcoming Waves back to campus with free food. The majority of students posting on Twitter were most excited about the reopening of Payson Library.

josias escobar @josiasaev: “Just reserved a room in Payson…they’ll have to drag me out”

Brandon Ishak @brandon_ishak_: “reserved a room in Payson and I am PUMPED”

lo @princespancaake: “can’t wait to see y’all across payson and not say a damn thing”

danielle nicole @sincerelydxnnii: “not me making a lib reservation at 8 am i am so pumped”

al @alpal_lol: “If I get covid in payson from one you globetrotting greek life girlies…”

Indy Wilson @indianaewilson: “Friday feb. 26 payson library green wing 9 am-12 pm … reply if you’re trying to link up via profile via polite nods/hand gestures”

Ally Richards @allygoldie: “ngl thinking about walking around main campus again straight up stresses me out. Can’t believe I used to do that all the time. See people? Eye contact? Be perceived by peers? Oo couldn’t be me”

lauren littington @LoloLITington: “I can’t do social media today… to many pictures of people in payson”

acai @aaleeseeaa: “muting the words payson library and alumni park”

Pepperdine will continue to update community members regarding COVID-19 guidelines via email, social media and the emergency information page.


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Contact Makena Huey via Twitter: @MakenaHuey or by email: