University of California To Grant Honorary Degrees To Japanese American Students Forced to Leave UC Campuses During WWII

The following is from a press release by the University of California.

OAKLAND, CA — On July 16, the University of California Board of Regents voted to grant special honorary degrees to hundreds of men and women forced to leave their studies at the University of California as a result of the imprisonment of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II in American concentration camps.

The Regents’ Committee on Educational Policy took the action after UC President Mark G. Yudof said that addressing the “historical tragedy” in this manner was long overdue and merited a one-time suspension of a 37-year-old UC moratorium on honorary degrees.

Approximately 700 students enrolled at four UC campuses—Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Davis—were removed from the West Coast in 1942 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the executive order giving the military the power to send Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals to concentration camps.

All of those students, whether living or deceased, will be awarded honorary degrees, as recommended by a UC task force co-chaired by Vice President of Student Affairs Judy Sakaki and UC Davis Professor of Law Daniel Simmons. The diplomas will bear the inscription, Inter Silvas Academi Restituere Iustitiam—or “to restore justice among the groves of the academe.”

Yudof noted that the Commission On Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, established by Congress in 1980, found that the internment was not justified by military necessity, and that the broad historical causes were “race prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership,” resulting in a “grave injustice.”

“This action is long overdue and addresses an historical tragedy,” said Yudof. “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.”

“I am extremely proud of the action that the Regents took today to address this unfinished business,” said Sakaki. “It means a great deal to me personally, to all former internees and to the entire Japanese American community.”

The UC students were among more than 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in “War Relocation Camps” in the wake of Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorized military commanders to exclude all people of Japanese ancestry from “military areas,” in California and most of Oregon and Washington.

At the time, UC faculty and administrators protested the inclusion of students in the order, arranged for some students to complete the semester’s course work from the concentration camps and helped arrange for some students to enroll in universities outside the exclusion zone. After the war, some students eventually completed their studies and earned degrees at UC, but the majority did not.

“Today’s vote for honorary degrees fills my heart with joy,” said Aiko “Grace” Obata Amemiya, 88, a former prisoner who was forced to leave UC Berkeley. “I’m glad the university is recognizing that what the government did was wrong, and now my classmates and I can finally take our place as full-fledged UC alumni.”

Those who have information regarding Japanese American students who were forced to end their studies and leave any University of Callifornia campus during World War II are encouraged to contact the University via e-mail at or call (510) 987-0239.

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5 thoughts on “University of California To Grant Honorary Degrees To Japanese American Students Forced to Leave UC Campuses During WWII

Add yours

  1. So long in coming, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s never too late to honor those most deserving. Happy college graduation!

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