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President and Vice President of Bellevue College out after vandalism of Japanese incarceration camp mural

Jerry Weber and Gayle Colston Barge have been dismissed by the Bellevue College Board of Directors

The president of Bellevue College near Seattle and one of his Vice Presidents has resigned after that same Vice President vandalized a mural on campus depicting the incarceration of Japanese Americans, reports MyNorthwest.com.

The decision to fire the two apparently came after a meeting of the school’s Board of Directors.

“The recent defacement of the ‘Never Again Is Now’ art installation along with the response to this deplorable act has deeply impacted students, staff and faculty,” said Board Chair Richard Fukutaki. “It has damaged the credibility of the college locally, regionally and nationally. But beyond that, it was just fundamentally wrong, and we needed to act decisively.”

The college placed Gayle Colston Barge, vice president of institutional advancement, on leave after she admitted removing the reference to “decades of anti-Japanese agitation, led by Eastside businessman Miller Freeman and others.”

Fukutaki told the Seattle Times the school does not believe Barge actually whited out the reference, but instructed someone else to do so. More than 20 percent of the school’s student body and staff are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Board made the decisions to fire President Jerry Weber and Barge during an emergency meeting over the weekend.

Erin Shigaki is the artist who created the Never Again is Now mural.

This week, she penned an op-ed about the incident.

Photo from Never Again is Now mural from Grant Making in the Arts by Eugene Tagawa

“When I found out that the Day of Remembrance mural I had installed at Bellevue College had been defaced just days after it went up, I was angry and shocked, but not entirely surprised,” she wrote in the South Seattle Emerald. She said references to the Freeman family role in anti-Japanese agitation has long been controversial.

Last fall at the City of Bellevue’s Bellwether Festival, something similar happened. Her reference to the Freemans on another art installation was also removed.

“Another artist, Khadija Tarver, was also forced to remove the Freeman name from her work, and a third, James Snowden, was asked to strike what he wrote about an anti-Asian slur heard on the streets of present day downtown Bellevue.”

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