USC Cancels Commencement After Barring Muslim Valedictorian Over Pro-Palestine Views

USC cancels 2024 commencement amid controversy over barring Muslim valedictorian from speaking due to pro-Palestine views, sparking debate on free speech and treatment of marginalized students.

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USC Cancels Commencement After Barring Muslim Valedictorian Over Pro-Palestine Views

USC Cancels Commencement After Barring Muslim Valedictorian Over Pro-Palestine Views

The University of Southern California (USC) has canceled its main commencement ceremony scheduled for May 10, 2024, amid ongoing protests and controversy surrounding the school's decision to bar Muslim valedictorian Asna Tabassum from speaking due to her pro-Palestine views.

The university cited new safety measures and the need to process a large number of guests as the reasons for the cancellation.

Tabassum, a biomedical engineering major, was informed that she would not be allowed to deliver the traditional valedictorian speech after pro-Israel groups complained about her social media posts, which were criticized as antisemitic. Over 50 student organizations signed a letter in support of Tabassum, who denied the accusations and stated her commitment to the lives of people of all faiths.

USC Provost Andrew Guzman stated that the decision to cancel Tabassum's speech was aimed at protecting campus security and had nothing to do with free speech. However, rights groups have viewed the cancellation as a free speech issue. "USC's decision contradicts its commitment to stand against Islamophobia and support marginalized students," said members of USC's Advisory Committee on Muslim Life (ACML), who resigned in solidarity with Tabassum.

Why this matters: The cancellation of USC's commencement ceremony and the barring of its Muslim valedictorian over her pro-Palestine views have sparked a heated debate about free speech and the treatment of marginalized students on college campuses. The incident highlights the ongoing tensions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict and its impact on academic institutions in the United States.

Following the decision to cancel the valedictorian's speech, pro-Palestinian protesters gathered on the USC campus, leading to a confrontation with the Los Angeles Police Department, which resulted in the arrest of at least 93 people for trespassing. The protests were also fueled by the escalating Israel-Hamas war, which has sparked demonstrations at universities across the country.

USC stated that the new safety measures would substantially increase the time needed to process the large number of guests, making it impossible to host the main stage ceremony. The university plans to hold smaller commencement events, including individual school ceremonies, to celebrate the graduates. However, many students expressed disappointment, arguing that the cancellation was not for safety reasons but to shut down the voice of the students.

CAIR-LA, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, condemned USC's decision, calling it a 'chilling message' that the university will not protect its Muslim, Palestinian, and Arab students from harassment and intimidation. The organization had previously called on USC to take a stand against anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate on its campus.

The cancellation of USC's main commencement ceremony and the barring of Tabassum's speech have been widely criticized as a failure of leadership by the university. The incident has left many graduating seniors feeling that their final weeks of academia have been tainted by the university's response to the protests and the ongoing controversy surrounding the valedictorian's pro-Palestine views.

Key Takeaways

  • USC cancelled the 2024 commencement over controversy around the Muslim valedictorian's speech.
  • Valedictorian Asna Tabassum was barred from speaking due to pro-Palestine views, sparking protests.
  • USC cited safety concerns and processing guests as reasons for cancellation, but free speech groups disagreed.
  • Protests erupted on campus, leading to 93 arrests, amid escalating Israel-Hamas conflict.
  • Cancellation widely criticized as a failure of leadership by the university.