Pepperdine University Refuses To Approve Student's Internship With Marijuana Policy Project

For college students applying for internships, the biggest letdown is usually a flat-out denial from a dream company. But for Victoria Stanzione, a Pepperdine University sophomore who was offered an internship at the Marijuana Policy Project, the disappointment came after her school refused to approve her internship.

Stanzione, a politics major, first heard from her program director that the dean who oversees the Seaver College internship program denied her internship request.

"The internship is not aligned with the mission and purpose of Pepperdine University and I cannot approve the internship for academic credit," Associate Dean Michael Feltner wrote in an email.

Though Stanzione said she didn't plan on Pepperdine saying yes, she refused to accept the university's "no" with little explanation and set her sights on an appeal.

"I'm one of those people that even if I'm told 'no' I like to fight it," Stanzione told the Huffington Post.

Her request was met with yet another resounding 'no,' and the blanket statement that the "states policy" internship does not fall in line with Pepperdine's mission.

The university's mission statement reads: "Pepperdine University is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership."

Jerry Derloshon, Pepperdine's senior director of public affairs, confirmed to the Huffington Post that Stanzione's internship approval request and appeal were denied because "the internship did not align with the mission of the university."

"With the legal status of marijuana use in the country and with Pepperdine being a dry campus it goes without saying that elicit drug use is not allowed on campus in any way shape or form," Derloshon said.

The Pepperdine student handbook states that "the atmosphere in which students are encouraged to explore faith and scholarship, is reflected in Pepperdine's affirmation statement, in which it says, 'Truth has nothing to fear from investigation.'"

The MPP does not endorse marijuana use, but the organization is focused on drug policy reform. However, MPP Communications Manager Morgan Fox believes the California university overlooked the organization's mandate all together, focusing instead on the policy reform group's name.

"There was very little explanation," Fox told the Huffington Post. "I don't think they really paid any attention to what the organization does. I think they just don't like [MPP]."

Despite the fact that MPP focuses solely on reform, Derloshon said that didn't sway the administrators who considered Stanzione's application.

"Marijuana is illegal. Given that is the case, that's the reason, I understand, her internship was denied," Derloshon said.

While Stanzione would have liked to work with the MPP since modern-day prohibition is something she "genuinely thinks is important," she does not have the resources to work an unpaid internship without school credit since she is living in Washington D.C. this semester as part of Pepperdine's internship program. Instead, she sought out another internship -- with Pepperdine's help -- at the Center for American Progress.

While the Christian values may have something to do with the university's denial, Fox counters that MPP, and drug reform in general, are supported by a wide variety of Christian organizations.

"We are called as Christians to engage this world, not run away from it," Rev. Alexander Sharp, the executive director emeritus of Protestants for the Common Good, said in a written statement. "Our current drug policies raise fundamental questions of compassion and justice. We cannot avoid these issues and still be true to the Gospel."

Recently, more than 100 college professors -- including an economics lecturer from Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business -- expressed their support for Colorado's marijuana legalization measure.

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