USC Cancels Main Commencement Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests, Citing Safety Concerns

USC cancels 2024 commencement over pro-Palestinian protests, raising concerns about balancing free speech, activism, and campus safety in polarized times.

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Bijay Laxmi
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USC Cancels Main Commencement Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests, Citing Safety Concerns

USC Cancels Main Commencement Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests, Citing Safety Concerns

The University of Southern California (USC) has canceled its main commencement ceremony scheduled for May 10, 2024, mentioning safety concerns amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on campus. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass confirmed the decision, which comes after nearly two weeks of controversy and demonstrations that have led to over 90 arrests.

The protests were triggered by USC's decision to rescind valedictorian Asna Tabassum's graduation speaking slot after undisclosed threats. Pro-Israel groups had accused the university of yielding to antisemitism over Tabassum's selection, referencing a pro-Palestinian link on her Instagram profile. Tabassum, a Muslim biomedical engineering major, said she had no plans to directly address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at graduation but wanted to talk about hope.

USC President Carol Folt denounced the protests in a statement, describing the recent controversies as "incredibly difficult for all of us" and urging the campus community to find common ground. Folt stated that the campus had become unsafe due to incidents of assault, vandalism, and blocking access to buildings.

The protests have resulted in the vandalism of campus property, including the iconic Tommy Trojan statue, and disruptions to campus operations. The Los Angeles Police Department issued a citywide tactical alert in response to the disturbances, and the university temporarily closed the University Park campus to everyone except residents as the number of protesters continued to grow.

Why this matters: The cancellation of USC's main commencement ceremony highlights the escalating tensions and challenges universities face when handling complex political issues on campus. The incident raises questions about the balance between free speech, student activism, and campus safety in an increasingly polarized climate.

USC has made attempts to meet with the protesting students, but they have declined these offers. The university maintains that while it supports freedom of expression, acts of vandalism and harassment are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Despite the cancellation of the main ceremony, which typically draws 65,000 people, USC will still hold smaller satellite ceremonies for graduates to receive their diplomas.

Key Takeaways

  • USC cancels main 2024 commencement over pro-Palestinian protests and safety concerns.
  • Protests triggered by USC rescinding valedictorian Asna Tabassum's graduation speaking slot.
  • Protests led to over 90 arrests, vandalism, and disruptions to campus operations.
  • USC President Folt denounces protests, says campus became unsafe due to incidents.
  • Smaller satellite ceremonies will still be held for graduates to receive diplomas.