Ye Olde Student Life: Pomona Rebels Against Japanese Internment

A 1943 issue of The Student Life featured an image of Itsue Hisanaga, who was then a recent graduate of Pomona College via Oberlin College.President Trump’s recent executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations was viewed by many 5C students as xenophobic. I unearthed in TSL’s February 13, 1943 issue another instance where we rebelled against the xenophobia of the nation as a whole, which during World War Two resulted in the internment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans via an executive order signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We Think It’s Pretty Fine

Those on Pomona[‘s] campus who cherish ideals of racial fellowship and international idealism should receive comfort and proof that these sentiments have not been wholy [sic] submerged here by the nature of the war in which this country is now engaged. However, public opinion may condemn loyal Јарanese who are unfortunate νictims of the acts of their treacherous brethren, Pomona has demonstrated her foresight and Christian spirit by tolerance and friendship extended to those loyal citizens who were former students.

The following is a copy of a letter sent by President Lyon to Ernest Wilkins, President of Oberlin College, on the occasion of Itsue Hisanaga’s graduation. President Wilkins recently replied that the letter was read at the commencement ceremonies and that Itsue was awarded, by proxy, the B.A. degree from Pomona.

Dear President Wilkins:

Across the years many ties have bound Pomona and Oberlin. From the common background the two colleges have maintained a similarity of interest and ideals.

We are particularly happy that in the tragic circumstances which have necessitated the removal of our students of Japanese ancestry from California it should be possible for one of them to complete her work at Oberlin and to receive her degree from Pomona. This is more than institutional courtesy of one liberal arts college to another. It is on the part of Pomona and Oberlin an assurance to our loyal Japanese citizens that we believe in democracy and tolerance. May this ceremony, not only for the recipient of the degree, but to all her fellow citizens of Japanese ancestry, serve as a pledge of faith and goodwill on the part of American higher education.

And now by the authority invested in me by the Trustees of Pomona College, I deputize you to confer upon Miss Itsue Hisanaga the degree of Bachelor of Arts, which [sic] all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.

Cordially yours,


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