Seeking Nisei Honorees for the California Nisei College Diploma Project

More than 2,500 students of Japanese ancestry are estimated to have been in California colleges and universities during World War II, with the Nisei — or second-generation Japanese Americans — comprising the largest number.

Assembly Bill 37, authored by California state Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), bestows honorary degrees to Japanese Americans, living or deceased, who were forced to leave their college studies and were incarcerated in America’s concentration camps during World War II.

AB 37 also allows a representative to accept an honorary degree on behalf of individuals who are deceased.

Supporting Assembly Bill 37, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California is currently working on the California Nisei College Diploma Project, which will provide critical outreach to aid in the process of obtaining an honorary degree while also educating college students and surrounding communities about the historical context and consequences of the Japanese American imprisonment caused by Executive Order 9066.

Working in collaboration with California college systems, numerous community organizations and Union Bank, the California Nisei College Diploma Project will maximize the scope of the community outreach to identify and locate those eligible to benefit from the legislation.

Effective Oct. 11, 2009, AB 37 requires that the Trustees of the California State University and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges grant honorary degrees to all people whose education was interrupted because of their incarceration during World War II.

On July 16, 2009, the Board of Regents of the University of California unanimously agreed to suspend the University’s moratorium on granting honorary degrees, thereby allowing all students whose education was interrupted by being sent to concentration camps to have the honor bestowed upon them.

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