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Assemblymember Warren T. Furutani to Address CSU Trustees Wednesday

Scheduled to Voice Support to Grant Honorary Degrees to WWII Internees

September 22, 2009

From the CSU Chancellor’s Office

Assemblymember Warren T. Furutani will address the California State University Board of Trustees at approximately 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23,  as the Educational Policy Committee votes on conferring honorary bachelor's degrees to Japanese Americans who were enrolled at CSU campuses and forced to internment camps during World War II.

Following the Trustees vote, the first degree is expected to be presented to Vivian Uwate Nelson, daughter of Aiko Nishi Uwate, a Japanese American woman who was removed from San Francisco State University and sent to Gila River relocation camp in Arizona.

As proposed, the CSU would grant honorary degrees to all former Japanese American CSU students whose college studies were interrupted due to internment during WWII. Surviving family members may receive the honorary degree in recognition of a deceased student.

By some historical accounts, nearly 250 Americans of Japanese descent were students attending CSU campuses when an order for removal was issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Campuses established by 1942 include Chico, Fresno, Humboldt, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San José and the California Maritime Academy. While records show some students went on to receive a university degree, many did not.

"Hundreds of students were removed from colleges and universities, forced to delay or abandon their dreams based solely on their ancestry," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. "The internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during WWII represents the worst of a nation driven by fear and prejudice. By issuing honorary degrees, we hope to achieve a small right in the face of such grave wrongs."

Assemblymember Furutani authored legislation this year that directs California’s postsecondary education institutions to extend honorary degrees to individuals who were unable to complete their post-secondary education due to their forced incarceration during World War II.  “AB 37 is an opportunity for our state to honor Americans of Japanese descent who suffered a significant injustice,” said Furutani.  “This legislation reflects our state’s commitment to correcting this ‘unfinished business’ for a waning population of deserving students.”   

The California State University is asking for public assistance in identifying individuals who qualify for the honorary degree. Former CSU students (or families of students) whose studies were interrupted due to the internment are urged to call (562) 951-4723,

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