USC to Apologize (Finally) for WWII Actions That Derailed the Education of Japanese American Students

Image courtesy of USC.

During World War II, over 127,000 Japanese Americans were interned and their lives turned upside down.  This number includes some University of Southern California (USC) students, who were treated shockingly poorly by USC, especially in contrast to other West Coast universities and colleges like UC Berkeley and Occidental College which tried to place their Japanese American students at other colleges across the country:

“Then-USC President Rufus B. von KleinSmid — now disgraced for his legacy of eugenics support, antisemitism and racism — and other campus officials refused to release transcripts of Japanese American students so they could study elsewhere. When some students tried to reenroll after the war, USC would not honor their previous coursework and said they would have to start over, according to their surviving family members.

Nearly 80 years later, USC is reversing course. President Carol Folt will publicly apologize to the former Japanese American students on behalf of the university and award them honorary degrees posthumously. The university is asking the public for help locating the families of about 120 students who attended USC during the 1941-42 academic year.

The decision comes nearly 15 years after Japanese American alumni first demanded their alma mater atone for its past behavior.

“This is a stained part of our history,” said Patrick Auerbach, USC associate senior vice president for alumni relations. “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.””

It is particularly disturbing to think that this decision took almost 15 years after the issue was brought up. I guess USC has a lot of issues to clean up, including its Varsity Blues admissions scandal – so many that it has the unfortunate honor of being the most scandal-plagued campus in America.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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