John Hiroshi Otomo, degree recipient, and John Welty, president of CSU Fresno
Mindful of its mission and responsibility to the residents of the state, the California State University Board of Trustees unanimously voted at its September 23, 2009, meeting to award Special Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees to CSU students of Japanese ancestry whose college educations were disrupted due to their forced removal from the west coast and incarceration during World War II.
"The internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II represents the worst of a nation driven by fear and prejudice," California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in a statement.
"By issuing honorary degrees, we hope to achieve a small right in the face of such grave wrongs."
The CSU has been working closely with Assembly Member Warren Furutani, author of Assembly Bill 37 (.pdf), various organizations in the Japanese American community, and the six CSU campuses where historical documents estimate that 250 Japanese Americans were enrolled in spring 1942.
CSU campuses will honor the former students at their regular commencement ceremonies in the spring; or at special ceremonies coinciding with commencements. Since many of the recipients are now in their 80s and 90s, special accommodations may be made through special presentations held by the campuses.
Through these efforts, the California State University strives to:
- Help heal the wounds of the injustice suffered by Japanese Americans living in California during World War II;
- Identify the former students enrolled in the CSU whose college educations were disrupted due to federal Executive Order 9066;
- Honor the academic intentions of the Japanese American students enrolled in the CSU;
- Present an honorary degree to the former students or their families in a meaningful way at campus ceremonies; and
- Welcome the former students back to the CSU.
To assist in the search for former students, the CSU has established a dedicated phone number and email address: (562) 951-4723 and firstname.lastname@example.org.