Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pepperdine and Prop 8

This was an email I received from a dear friend who went to Pepperdine Law School with me:

Dear Friends,

By now many of you have seen the first ad for Yes on Prop 8 (to ban same-sex marriage). It's been running since yesterday, and it features Prof. Richard Peterson, one of the professors at Pepperdine University School of Law. I've attached the link so you can view the ad for yourself. This email is meant to be informational, and to show that Pepperdine's reputation has been hurt by the stupidity of a professor being involved in a campaign television ad, and to ask you to do something to make it known that this is inappropriate.

Like many of you, I am disgusted and disappointed that one of our professors would take such a position in any sort of political ad, especially a television ad on a controversial proposition and link the law school to his name. I am all for professors having the freedom to discuss controversial propositions and the merits for and against such propositions. But engaging in campaign ads crosses the line of academic freedom when it associates the entire law school (and frankly the University) with a political position. No one doubts it would be just as inappropriate for a professor to be in an ad for No on Prop 8.

To date, many alumni have already written letters and called about the ad in opposition to the fact that a professor would take part in something like this and link the law school to it. Ken Starr has reportedly asked that Pepperdine's name be removed from the ad or that the ad be removed. No word yet on whether this has occurred but the ad is still on the website with Pepperdine's name. However, to date, no formal public statement that I'm aware of has been issued by the University or law school regarding this.

The problem is the ad has already been made public, and articles have already been written about the ad. I was not that surprised to see that Christian News Wire had picked up the press release about the ad being launched ( (press release details).

What surprised me was that Reuters had it (full article with Pepperdine reference)

As well as the following news outlets:

Yahoo News (full article including Pepperdine reference) (press release details) (

Lexisnexis (full artlcle with Pepperdine reference) (, (full article including Pepperdine reference)

The press release mentioned above also includes this statement: "Additionally, Professor Richard Peterson of the Pepperdine University School of Law, who appears in the ad, and Mr. Andrew Pugno, counsel to, will be available to answer questions." What is a law professor doing at a press release for a political campaign that uses the affiliation Pepperdine University School of Law? And how did this not get vetted by Pepperdine's PR people?

The San Diego Union Tribune blog notes that Professor Peterson at the news conference unveiling the ad stated that there are broader potential implications, and directly quotes him as saying, "It's not just about tolerance and discrimination anymore." ( Actually that's exactly what this is about!

The only reference to someone at Pepperdine PR is in the San Francisco Weekly blog ( It poetically states that the Yes on Prop 8 ad "unleashes Pepperdine University School of Law professor Richard Peterson, who makes a complete ass out of himself and the school." It further cites Jerry Derloshon, the University PR Director as saying in his 10 years at the University, he can't recall another Pepperdine professor lending expert opinions to a campaign ad, and quotes him as saying, "The ad is not part of a Pepperdine University endorsed position. Pepperdine does not advocate for or against political candidates or ballot measures." However, as noted no official formal statement has been issued by the University yet, to my knowledge.)

Most humiliating is the article written by the San Jose Mercury News ( In the article, Dean and Professor Erwin Chemerinsky calls the arguments by Peterson "preposterous" and outlines why each of the fear-based arguments for Proposition 8 do not carry much legal weight (of all the articles to read, this one would be the most important).

When the most well respected constitutional scholar is now weighing in on this television commercial and basically states that the legal claims made by one of Pepperdine's professors is baseless, we have a real issue regarding Pepperdine's reputation being permanently damaged.

I would urge each and every one of you to write a letter, email, or make a phone call to Pepperdine in opposition. Even a quick call reiterating that "I just want to let you know I find this inappropriate" means a lot. The list of articles above was compiled last night, and numerous other blogs (including large ones like DailyKos, LAWeekly, LAist, and Rough & Tumble) have articles mentioning Pepperdine and the ad as well, so undoubtedly there will be more sources that have picked this story up.

I and others would like to see Pepperdine issue a formal public statement disaffiliating itself from the ad and that actions will be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again. To an extent, the damage to the school's reputation has been done, but it's important to voice concern as alumni. I will be writing my own letter with much of the same information outlined above later today, and will be placing a call to the Dean's office, but I wanted to get this information out to all of you as soon as possible. Please forward this information to other friends who might be interested as I don't have email addresses for everyone.

Alumni Affairs Office info is below. Other alums have contacted the Deans directly.

I. Mailing Address

Pepperdine University School of Law
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263

II. Phone: Alumni Affairs

(310) 506-4492
(310) 506-6567
FAX: (310) 506-7467

III. Contact Emails

Brad Benham, Director of Alumni Affairs,


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