USC cancels main commencement ceremony after nixing valedictorian’s speech

The University of Southern California (USC) has canceled its main commencement ceremony amid criticism over its decision to nix its pro-Palestinian valedictorian’s speech.

The school announced on Thursday that due to new safety measures, it would not have the main graduation ceremony that normally holds 65,000 people.

“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. 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 announcement said.

The cancellation comes after the school said valedictorian Asna Tabassum could not give a speech due to “safety concerns” after people were upset with posts she had on her social media.

Tabassum had a link on her social media to a site that called for the “complete abolishment” of Israel and said that “Zionism is a racist settler-colonial ideology that advocates for a Jewish ethnostate built on Palestinian land.”

Some groups, such as USC’s Trojans for Israel, labeled Tabassum antisemitic and said she should not speak. The school canceled her speech citing safety reasons but did not name any concrete threats.

The news comes as numerous pro-Palestinian protests are being held at campuses across the country, and advocates predict a controversial year for commencement speeches.

USC had dozens of students arrested Wednesday night who were protesting for Palestine, closing the campus afterward.

“The protest on the [University Park Campus] has ended,” the alert from the safety department said. “However, the campus remains closed until further notice. Students, faculty, staff, and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification.”

USC said Thursday it still will hold commencement events, “including all the traditional individual school commencement ceremonies where students cross the stage, have their names announced, are photographed, and receive their diplomas.”

“We understand that this is disappointing; however, we are adding many new activities and celebrations to make this commencement academically meaningful, memorable, and uniquely USC, including places to gather with family, friends, faculty, and staff, the celebratory releasing of the doves, and performances by the Trojan Marching Band,” the school said.

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