Pepperdine Will Remove Christopher Columbus Statue

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus / Wikimedia Commons
February 2, 2017

After increasing demands, Pepperdine University will remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from its main campus in Malibu, the College Fix reported on Thursday.

The university's president Andrew Benton sent an email to all undergraduates on Monday, stating that the statue will be moved abroad to Pepperdine's campus in Florence.

A group representing the Columbus 500 Congress gifted the Christian university the statue in 1992, when Christopher Columbus was known only as the man who discovered the new world.

"For years the story of Columbus and the fascinating exploration that brought him to the new world was taught in schools across America. It was heroic and exciting," Benton wrote to his students.

"Later, as the impact of the arrival of explorers was assessed more fully, especially as those impacts related to indigenous people, a different view formed," he continued. "Today, for many, including those within our campus community, stories of conquest and the art associated therewith are painful reminders of loss and human tragedy."

In his email, Benton reminded the students that the gift was meant to "honor the good attributes" of Columbus, and not to "offend."

But students were offended by the statue. In early October students held a "Waves Against Columbus" protest, the university newspaper the Graphic reported. Students dressed in black and brought flowers to the statue before they sat in silence in front of it for almost an hour, while they held signs that read, 'The student is the heart of the educational enterprise," 'Representation matters," and 'Does this man embody purpose, service, and leadership?"

The Graphic reported in October that the "Waves Against Columbus" group, which is based on the student group originally called "Waves Against Ignorance," released a statement, calling the statue "a celebration of genocide and racial oppression," "a prioritization of nominally esteemed university donors above the cultural acceptance and personal experience of marginalized students," 'a culturally insensitive form of international exploration," and a violation of Pepperdine's Christian mission.

After the protest, Benton wrote the university newspaper, stating that although he did not witness the protest he admired the students' "thoughtful expressions of disagreement."

This is not the first time time Benton has ceded to his students' offense. Last summer, he removed a carved wooden mural depicting Father Junipero Serra at his mission, next to Spanish conquistadors with Native Americans in a corner.

In the case of the Christopher Columbus incident, Benton wrote in his email that he will hold a "community forum" in the month of February, "where we can discuss this decision and consider other national issues relevant to diversity on our campuses."

"I look forward to our conversation then," he wrote.

Pepperdine's Black Student Association issued a statement to the College Fix, praising Benton's decision.

'We are happy to finally see this come to fruition. We thank everyone involved in this movement for their hard work and dedication towards fighting for this cause," they said. 'We are humbled to contribute to this work of justice."