The University of California will grant honorary degrees to hundreds of students of Japanese ancestry who, during WWII, were seized from their studies at the UC and cast into internment camps.
By awarding these honorary degrees to the Japanese-American students who were interned 65 years ago, the UC will be allowing a one-time exception to its standing 37-year moratorium on granting honorary degrees. In doing so, the UC is following in the footsteps of Oregon State University and the California State University system, which have already taken official steps to recognize the unique plight of formerly interned students.
As the only four UC campuses in existence at the time, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and UC Los Angeles will hold ceremonies during Winter and Spring Quarter to honor the former students and their friends and family. Deceased recipients of the honorary degrees will be represented by their families.
These degrees are being issued decades later than they should have, UC President Mark G. Yudof said, and in no way will they be able to compensate for the hardship these internees suffered during WWII. However, Yudof said, it is a worthy action for the UC to take.
“This action is long overdue and addresses an historical tragedy,” Yudof said. “To the surviving students themselves and to their families, I want to say, ‘This is one way to apologize to you. It will never be possible to erase what happened, but we hope we can provide you a small measure of justice.’”
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, which authorized the forcible relocation of 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, approximately 700 Japanese-American students attending UC schools had to put their education on hold. While some students re-enrolled after the war, the majority of students were unable to complete their degrees.
The Office of the President is attempting to find more participants for the ceremonies. Family members of students who were interned and forced to discontinue their education are urged to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 987-0239.