USC To Apologize For WWII-Era Actions That Derailed Japanese American Students’ Educations

The University of Southern California is apologizing to former Japanese American students whose educations were interfered with by the school during World War II.

USC President Carol Folt will issue a formal apology to the former students and award them honorary degrees posthumously, according to the Los Angeles Times. The school is also asking the public for assistance in locating the families of around 120 students who went to USC from 1941-42. 

“This is a stained part of our history,” USC Associate Senior Vice President for Alumni Relations Patrick Auerbach told the Times. “While we can’t change what happened in the past … the university can certainly still do right by their families and let them know that we are posthumously awarding them honorary degrees so that they can occupy that place in the Trojan family, which they deserve.” 

An executive order issued by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 forced the removal of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast, placing tens of thousands of people in detention camps.

USC refused to release the transcripts of Japanese American students so they could attend another university, the Los Angeles Times reported. When some students attempted to return to USC after the war, the school would not recognize their previously completed courses and told them they would have to start over, their surviving family members noted. 

USC alumni have been pushing for the school to apologize for their actions toward Japanese American students during World War II for years, but the issue gained new momentum after George Floyd’s murder last year, which prompted many institutions to examine their roles in acts of racism.

USC law students last year publicized their research project centering on the issue, titled “Forgotten Trojans,” and an Academic Senate committee also pushed for the school to formally recognize the issue, the Times reported. 

Folt will officially make the apology and award the degrees next spring at an Asian Pacific Alumni Association gala and will also recognize the former students at the school’s commencement in May, according to the Times.

Source: The Hill