Bellevue College president and vice president resign

Resignations follow outcry after mural is censored.

Bellevue College (BC) president Jerry Weber and vice president Gayle Colston Barge have officially resigned. The resignations came two days after the college announced they would be leaving as a consequence of Barge’s defacement of the campus mural of two Japanese American children in a World War II incarceration camp.

The art installation, “Never Again Is Now,” was created by Seattle artist Erin Shigaki. It includes an 11-foot-tall mural of two children photographed at a California incarceration camp. The project was brought to Bellevue College in mid-February 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.

Shortly after the mural was installed, it was reported that a sentence of the mural’s description was whited out by one of BC’s vice presidents, Gayle Colston Barge.

“After decades of anti-Japanese agitation, led by Eastside businessman Miller Freeman and others, the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans included the 60 families (300 individuals) who farmed Bellevue,” was the sentence that was defaced.

Barge was put on administrative leave following the incident. It has not been made clear as to what the intention was behind the act.

At the March 4 BC Board of Trustees meeting, the board unanimously accepted both resignations.

Board president Richard Fukutaki read Weber’s written resignation. In Weber’s statement, he said his actions were “regrettable.” Though he did not commit the action himself, it happened on his watch. “It is in the college’s best interest for me to resign.”

Barge apologized for her actions in a statement. In her written resignation, she apologized for the hardship she caused by her actions and said it was in the college’s best interest for her to step down.

Provost Kristen Jones will serve as acting president.

The day before, March 3, hundreds of BC students and community members attended a commemoration ceremony and gathering of solidarity for BC Asian Pacific Islander students. Mural artist, Shigaki, and the Seattle chapter Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL) were in attendance.

“I am really appreciative for the event,” Jones said at the board of trustees’ meeting.

She said it was a healing moment for the campus and community.