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2 at Bellevue College out after incarceration mural altered

March 2, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — The president and one vice president of Bellevue College will be leaving their jobs, the school announced Monday, after the vice president’s decision to alter a campus mural of two Japanese American children in a World War II incarceration camp by removing a reference to anti-Japanese agitation by Eastside businessmen.

President Jerry Weber and Gayle Colston Barge, vice president of institutional advancement, are departing, though it wasn’t made clear by the public college if the two were being fired or if they resigned, The Seattle Times reported. Provost Kristen Jones will serve as acting president, Board Chair Rich Fukutaki announced.

The decision came after a weekend emergency board meeting, Fukutaki said. The board will publicly vote Wednesday to separate from Weber.

Barge, who last week was placed on leave, acknowledged two weeks ago that she removed a reference in the description accompanying the art installation “Never Again Is Now,” created by Seattle artist Erin Shigaki. The project was brought to Bellevue College as the school recognized the Day of Remembrance, which commemorates the day President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the imprisonment of Japanese Americans.

On Monday, however, Fukutaki said leaders now believe Barge told someone else to do it.

Fukutaki called the defacing an unacceptable act and one that is personal to him. His family members were imprisoned during World War II, he said, and his grandfather died from appendicitis because he couldn’t get treatment.

Shigaki, whose father was born in a Japanese American incarceration camp, said Monday after the announcement that she feels Weber’s and Barge’s departures are appropriate.