No Sanctuary: Japanese American Internment and the Long Arc of Academic Freedom and Shared Governance

By William Kidder, Judy Sakaki, and Daniel Simmons

Abstract:

Among those affected by the forced evacuation and “internment” of Japanese Americans during World War II were Japanese American faculty and students at the University of California. The racial prejudice and wartime hysteria that gave rise to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 upended the lives of these faculty and students, including many students who were never able to complete their degrees. This essay recounts the stories of Japanese American faculty and students and in so doing serves as a case study in the long-term role of academic freedom in changing the intellectual, social, and political conditions surrounding how internment was regarded, both for a younger generation of Japanese Americans and for US society overall. How America eventually came to terms with the aftermath of internment demonstrates the vital function of college and university communities (as declared in the AAUP’s 1915 founding document) as “an intellectual experiment station, where new ideas may germinate.” This essay is also a case study in how University of California faculty and administrative leaders came together through shared governance to address the profound injustice of Executive Order 9066 and awarded honorary degrees to over 700 Japanese American alumni enrolled at the university in 1941–42, which required overcoming a forty-year ban on honorary degrees at the University of California.

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