On behalf of Bellevue College, we would like to publicly acknowledge and apologize for the defacing of Erin Shigaki’s art installation entitled “Never Again is Now,” commemorating the issuance of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt which removed 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast and incarcerated them in concentration camps during World War II.
Covering up part of the artist’s description, “After decades of anti-Japanese agitation, led by Eastside businessman Miller Freeman and others, the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans included 60 families (300 individuals) who farmed Bellevue,” was an insensitive and hurtful act. It was fundamentally wrong, and for that we are deeply apologetic.
The college recognizes the defacement of the art installation inflicted trauma and profound hurt in the Japanese American community and more broadly. The destruction and the response to this deplorable act deeply impacted students, staff, and faculty.
Many on the Bellevue campus, led by our student and employee affinity groups, have come together to support Japanese Americans, and stand by them.
As stated in our press conference, we know an apology is not enough, but that decisive action was and is needed. The college accepted the resignations of the former president and the vice president of Advancement on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
Concurrently, the Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Kristen Jones as acting president of the college. The Board of Trustees will conduct an accelerated search over the next 30-60 days for a leader to fill the interim president role. This role will last between 12–18 months and will provide the college and community with leadership to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and programs.
And while a change in leadership is appropriate and important, the last few weeks highlight the need for recommitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bellevue College.
We promise to do a better job of listening and, more importantly, acting on what we’ve heard in order to honor the diversity of our community. We are committed to expanding opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to learn about the history of marginalized peoples, and in particular, the local history of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States. Moving forward, we will also actively support activities to raise awareness like observing the Day of Remembrance.
This episode is a painful and important learning moment for all, especially for those of us in leadership positions at Bellevue College. While we understand our public apology to Ms. Shigaki and the many people negatively affected doesn’t bring the healing deserved, we will work hard to restore trust and move forward with the actions mentioned here and more to ensure that the culture of our campus won’t allow something like this to happen again at Bellevue College.
Our office will be in contact with Ms. Shigaki and leaders in the Japanese American community to dedicate time at a future board meeting or other gathering for ongoing listening and dialogue. Please know our doors are always open.
— Dr. Kristen Jones
— Mr. Richard G. Fukutaki
Chair, Board of Trustees