By SAMANTHA MASUNAGA
RAFU STAFF INTERN
Former Japanese American college students who were unable to graduate during World War II are now one step closer to receiving honorary degrees.
On Monday, Assemblymember Warren T. Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County) announced that Assembly Bill 37, which would grant honorary degrees to all JAs whose college educations were disrupted by the internment, passed through the California Legislature on a vote of 65 to 0, according to a press release.
The next step will be consideration of the bill by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“We have run into virtually no opposition,” Furutani said, in regard to his bill. “We’re still working with CSU (California State University) on their approach and the community colleges are on board. So there’s still technical stuff to do, and we hope he’ll sign it.”
If signed by Schwarzenegger, AB 37 will affect the 2,567 JA students who were enrolled at a California public institution of higher education during World War II.
In the press release, Furutani said that the age of the individuals prompted quick action for their recognition.
“These former college students are well into their 80s,” he said. “More than 60 years have passed and yet only a handful of colleges and universities have chosen to extend honorary degrees to these students.”
Furutani is no stranger to the process of awarding honorary degrees.
In 2004, he was involved in the drafting of the Japanese American Internment Diploma Resolution, which was the first resolution to grant a high school diploma to any student enrolled in an LAUSD high school immediately prior to the internment.
This past year, he also assisted University of California Vice President for Student Affairs Judy Sakaki in crafting a similar proposal for JA students who were enrolled at a UC campus during World War II. This proposal was passed by the UC Board of Regents in July.
But in spite of these successes, Furutani is realistic about the future of his bill.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said, regarding Schwarzenegger’s reaction to the bill. “I know there’s community folks talking to him and I’m sure he’s aware of the larger issue. I’m sure he’d be supportive of that.”