Monroe Deutsch (Provost 1931-1947)

In 1942, months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 was issued, allowing the Secretary of War and military commanders to prescribe military areas. This vested them the power to exclude individuals, specifically 120,000 Japanese Americans and have them sent to internment camps. Over two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, and many of them were children. None had committed any acts of sabotage throughout the war; they were imprisoned without trial simply because of long-standing racist views towards Asian Americans and a desire to curb their growing economic success. Among those imprisoned were hundreds of Berkeley students, who were forced to withdraw from school and give up their education—sometimes permanently.

 

Provost Monroe Deutsch was a remarkable champion of these members of the UC Berkeley community who faced intense public persecution and vilification. He took an active role in the Fair Play Committee, established by University President Robert Sproul, in an effort to mitigate the effects of the executive order and allow interned Japanese American students to leave the camps and continue their education by transferring to colleges and universities outside the declared military zone. Deutsch also wrote to President Roosevelt and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter warning of the moral injustices that would occur when civil liberties were disregarded.

 

However, his most effective actions come from his work as Vice President of the National Student Relocation Council. Here, he was able to help 216 interned students get into colleges in 1943 by receiving responses from 416 colleges willing to accept Japanese American students. In all, with the efforts of Monroe Deutsch, 1500 students were successfully moved to 500 different colleges on the East Coast.

 

Deutsch’s courageous actions and unwavering efforts on behalf of these members of the UC Berkeley community offer us a shining example of an administrator who valued his students and the integrity of the university. He was a resolute supporter of the United States Constitution, and his moral clarity is inspiring and stands the test of time.

Professor of Latin and UC Berkeley alumnus

Vice President of the National Student Relocation Council

“Can not something be done to insure humane treatment even in war time? For over the expulsion of an entire group of American citizens because of ancestry is an unprecedented blow at all our American principles … this does not alter the fact that innocent lives are being uprooted.”

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Spring 2019