U.S.C. to Issue Honorary Degrees to Displaced Japanese Students

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Jonathan Kaji, erstwhile president of the Asian Pacific Alumni Association astatine the University of Southern California, has been pushing the schoolhouse to apologize for its attraction of its Nisei students since 2007.

The Japanese Trojan Club, a pupil  enactment     at University of Southern California, successful  1942.
Credit...USC

Isabella Grullón Paz

Oct. 16, 2021, 9:13 a.m. ET

In 2007, Jonathan Kaji, past the president of the Asian Pacific Alumni Association astatine the University of Southern California, inquired astir the school’s actions toward its Japanese students successful 1942. That was the twelvemonth President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forcibly removed and detained radical of Japanese descent from the West Coast aft the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

He had work that universities successful Washington State were issuing honorary degrees to the Nisei — children of Japanese immigrants — who were prevented from finishing their studies by the enforcement order.

A past prof astatine the schoolhouse got backmost to him with a information helium recovered disturbing: Many universities successful California, Washington and Oregon urged different institutions to judge Japanese American students truthful that they could implicit their studies and debar detention. However, U.S.C.’s president astatine the time, Rufus B. von KleinSmid, infamous for his antisemitism and enactment for the survey of eugenics, refused to merchandise the transcripts of Japanese American students, preventing them from finishing their degrees elsewhere and forcing galore to commencement over.

Mr. Kaji instantly petitioned U.S.C.’s committee of trustees to apologize for its actions during World War II and to contented posthumous honorary degrees to Nisei students who were denied their transcripts.

Almost 15 years later, the assemblage is granting Mr. Kaji’s request.

On Thursday, the assemblage announced that it would assistance posthumous degrees to implicit 100 Nisei students who were denied transcripts. The assemblage is urging the nationalist to assistance find the descendants of the students to grant them during a gala successful April.

Carol Folt, the university’s president since 2019,made the determination to close a humanities wrong, Patrick Auerbach, subordinate elder vice president for alumni relations, said connected Thursday.

U.S.C. gave Nisei erstwhile students honorary alumni presumption successful 2008 and issued honorary degrees to immoderate surviving Nisei students successful 2012. University argumentation does not let degrees to beryllium issued posthumously, but Dr. Folt decided connected “making an objection to this argumentation due to the fact that this is the close happening to do, Mr. Auerbach said.

Dr. Folt plans to contented a nationalist apology to the 120 students during the gala.

The assemblage had been facing unit to grant students since a authorities instrumentality passed successful 2009, drafted successful portion by Mr. Kaji, requiring schools successful the California State University and California Community Colleges systems to grant honorary degrees to each displaced Japanese American students, surviving oregon deceased.

In 2009, Mr. Kaji received a effect from Steven B. Sample, U.S.C.’s president astatine the time, saying that the instauration did not travel the authorities universities, Mr. Kaji recalled.

For the children of the students, astir of whom person died, this grade feels similar “getting closure,” Dr. Larry Fujioka, a dentist successful Hawaii, said. For him, this grade felt “much much meaningful” than immoderate designation that his father, John Masato Fujioka, 1 of the students to beryllium honored, received successful the past.

He said the school’s erstwhile attempts to grant the displaced students, successful 2008 and 2012, didn’t correspond “a existent apology and a existent motion by the assemblage to truly travel to grips astir what they had done.”

Dr. Fujioka, 68, said his begetter “never held a grudge against U.S.C., contempt what they did.” He seldom talked astir what came aft Executive Order 9066, but helium ever wore his U.S.C. sweatshirt.

“He ever felt similar a U.S.C. man,” Dr. Fujioka said. “I deliberation he’d beryllium precise blessed with this.”

Joanne Kumamoto said her father, Jiro Oishi, would beryllium precise blessed with the news, but for her, it is simply a bittersweet moment. Her begetter died successful 2002, truthful helium was not recognized successful the erstwhile ceremonies.

“I’m truly blessed for my dada due to the fact that I cognize this is thing helium truly wanted,” Ms. Kumamoto, 76, said. For arsenic agelong arsenic she could remember, helium was arrogant to beryllium a Trojan. He wore the schoolhouse colors, cardinal and gold, and had play tickets to U.S.C. shot and hoops games. It wasn’t until Ms. Kumamoto was successful precocious schoolhouse that she recovered retired her begetter did not postgraduate from U.S.C.

“Personally, I’m a small more, you know, atrocious that this didn’t hap earlier,” she said. “But I’m trying to enactment positive, due to the fact that I deliberation it’s a bully measurement for U.S.C.”

Mr. Kaji said a batch had changed since 2007, similar the caller president’s openness to addressing racist chapters of U.S.C. history. But mostly what has changed is context, helium said.

“The question of scandals that person slammed U.S.C. successful caller years, combined with the civilian unrest pursuing the George Floyd lawsuit and the question of anti-Asian unit during the Covid pandemic, each combined to determination the contented forward,” Mr. Kaji said.

Mr. Kaji remembers starring a 10-person protestation successful beforehand of the auditorium wherever the archetypal installment of honorary degrees were being awarded successful 2012. He did not deliberation the schoolhouse was doing enough. With him were his parents, some Nisei, who knew students affected by the enforcement order.

“Before some of them passed away, I promised to them that I would proceed this effort,” Mr. Kaji said. “So I judge this is, you know, completing a committedness to them.”

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