An Open Letter Offering Scholarship to Cal Student Isabella Chow

Pete Peterson
Dean, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Public Policy

Dear Ms. Chow,

It was only a few days ago that a good friend sent me a link to a San Francisco Chronicle piece describing your plight as a UC-Berkeley student, and elected senator in the school’s student government. I understand your challenges began in November, so I apologize for the delayed offer. It appears I missed this story during a rather turbulent time in my own school’s history with the horrific Borderline shooting, and the Woolsey Fire.

Reading at least a half dozen articles on the attacks you’ve endured for abstaining from voting on a purely symbolic measure, I’ve come quickly to appreciate your courage, commitment to civility, your love for your fellow students, and your mature Christian faith. I can’t imagine what it took to not simply vote in the affirmative on a bill denouncing the Trump administration for just considering a revision to Title IX regulations – returning to the original view that a person’s sex match their birth certificate designation.

Your five-paragraph statement to the senate explaining the reasons for your vote is an example of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 4:15 to “speak the truth in love”. As you said, “In God’s eyes and therefore my own, everyone of you here today and in the LGBTQ+ community a whole is significant, valid, wanted, and loved-even if and when our views differ.” To be specific, where your views-formed by the Judeo-Christian tradition-differed was in this understanding God’s creation of humanity as male and female. You closed your remarks saying, “I again affirm with all my heart that each one of you in this room deserves nothing less than respect, acknowledgement, legal protection, and love, no matter your beliefs. I humbly ask that you extend this same respect and acknowledgment to my community.” Again, even with this thoughtful proclamation, you did not vote against the resolution, merely abstained.

As a Californian, a taxpayer, educator, and a person of faith, I hoped that one of our great public universities, known for its historic commitment to free speech, and still operating under the Biblically-based motto “Fiat Lux” (“Let there be light”), would have extended you the grace you so obviously offered to others, but this was not to be. From the campus newspaper editorial criticisms of your abstention, to the petition signed by over 1,000 of your fellow students calling for your ouster from the senate, to the direct personal attacks in open senate meetings, and vicious online harassment you’ve endured, I’m embarrassed by the actions of your fellow students, and the apparent inactions of faculty and administrators. There are sins of commission and omission, and you’ve suffered both.

The stance you took should not have come as a shock to the students who voted for or against you based on clearly stated positions during the campaign last Spring. In the student government voting guide, you stated forthrightly that, “I promise to work tirelessly to promote the needs of the Christian and publications/media communities.” You listed “serve Cal’s Christian Community” as the first of your campaign platforms. You were, no doubt, not only expressing your own judgment in the voting decision, but also representing the students who voted for you – even if they are a minority on campus.

As the dean of one of America’s only graduate policy schools based at a Christian university, we welcome students of all faiths and no faith to our campus overlooking the Pacific. We believe strongly in the concept of “viewpoint diversity”-the understanding that the American Experiment was created through deliberation and debate, and if it is to be sustained, we’ll need public leaders able to work across differences even as they are grounded in our founding principles. Scripture teaches us the inestimable value of every individual, and the Constitution teaches us that religious liberty is foundational to promoting the common good. You’ve demonstrated a familiarity with both of these perspectives over these last months.

I read that you’re considering going in to the business world after you make it through (survive?) Berkeley. While I know you still have another year remaining at Cal, I hope you’ll also consider my offer of an academic scholarship to the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine upon your acceptance. You’ve so clearly displayed the skills, passion, bravery of a great public leader, and I know you’ll benefit from our unique program wherever you go in your career. It might be time to experience an educational community that provides more welcoming and diverse views – literally and figuratively.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Pete Peterson

Dean, Pepperdine School of Public Policy

 

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