USC Cancels Graduation After Firestorm Over Pro-Palestine Valedictorian’s Speech

Wally Skalij/Getty Images
Wally Skalij/Getty Images

First it canceled a valedictorian’s speech. Then it removed all non-university-affiliated speakers from the lineup.

Now, in the latest axe to fall on the University of Southern California’s graduation festivities, the school will no longer hold its main commencement ceremony for the thousands of graduates and guests it had promised to host.

In an announcement made Thursday, USC blamed logistical problems related to increased security protocols.

“With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially,” its statement reads. “As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time and during a short window from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.”

The school promised to add new “memorable, meaningful, and uniquely USC” activities in lieu of the ceremony, but said it wouldn’t release a full commencement plan until April 30.

The move comes just days after the university announced that it was canceling the graduation speech of valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim student with a history of pro-Palestine statements.

In an email to university stakeholders explaining the decision, the school’s Provost Andrew Guzman said online discourse surrounding her speech had reached an “alarming tenor,” and had “escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.”

Tabassum wrote in a subsequent statement released through Muslim advocacy group Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that her appointment subjected her to a campaign of “racist hatred”—and explained that she had “serious doubts” about whether the decision had been made “solely on the basis of safety.”

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