LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Issue with Selection Process for Awarding of Honorary Degrees to Nisei Students of WWII Era

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Dear President Nikias,

The Board of Directors of the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California is very pleased that USC will present honorary degrees to several Japanese American students who were prevented from completing their degree requirements because they were forcibly removed from California by the federal government during World War II.

However, we were surprised and dismayed that the honorary degrees will only be issued to those former USC students who are still living. Those who are now deceased will only receive honorary alumni status. We do not understand the rationale for categorizing the deceased differently from those who are still living. Seventy years have passed since these students were forcibly removed from their studies. Many have passed away in the decades since the war. We believe that all of these former students should be presented with honorary degrees.

Japanese Americans endured many violations of their civil rights during World War II. The impact on their lives was profound, both economically and emotionally. Many never recovered and died in poverty or never lived to see the federal government finally apologize to them after 45 years through redress in 1988.

In the past decade, many great academic institutions, such as USC, have stepped forward to atone for the abuses that took place seven decades ago in their colleges and universities. We ask that you include all the former Nisei students as honorary graduates, living and deceased, so that they and their families can have a sense of closure over the traumatic events of World War II. President Ronald Reagan said it best when, against the advice of all of his advisors, signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988: “This is the right thing to do.”

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,
Roy Y. Sakamoto
President, Board of Directors
Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California

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