USC Cancels Speech By Anti-Israel Valedictorian

Students are seen on campus at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, on April 16, 2024. The University of Southern California (USC) on April 17, 2024 has canceled its plans for a graduation speech by a Muslim student over what it says are safety concerns. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
4:52 PM – Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The valedictorian of the University of Southern California (USC) will not be giving a graduation address this year due to “substantial risks relating to security” resulting from discussions regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.


Asna Tabassum, a fourth-year student from Chino Hills, California, was chosen as the valedictorian and agreed to provide a speech with two salutatorians, according to the L.A. college.

However, the university announced in a news release on Monday that she would no longer be speaking at the ceremony because the conversation surrounding her selection had taken on “an alarming tenor.”

Following complaints from students, alumni, and other parties regarding Tabassum’s social media presence—which includes an Instagram bio that connects to a page supporting Palestine and condemning Israel—the institution acted.

“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement,” Provost Andrew Guzman said.

According to Guzman, the school cannot deny that comparable risks later resulted in violence and harassment at other campuses. He continued by saying that the campus safety team and the school’s Department of Public Safety had conferred to assess any possible risks to graduation, which usually attracts about 65,000 attendees.

“This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation—including the expectations of federal regulators—that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe,” Guzman said.

In a statement made available through the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Los Angeles, Tabassum, the chosen valedictorian, discussed the university’s decision.

“Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” she said.

The council claimed that the school’s action “sends a terrible message to not only Muslim students at USC but all students who dare to express support for Palestinian humanity,” amplifies voices of hate, and violates its duty to project students.

Meanwhile, “Trojans For Israel,” a pro-Israel student organization, was among those criticizing Tassabum for planning to speak at the commencement. The group asserted that allowing her to give a speech at the collegiate event would transform “an inclusive and meaningful milestone into an unwelcoming and intolerant environment for Jewish graduates and their families.”

Nevertheless, Democrat congress members known for their anti-Israel condemnation, like Rashida Tlaib, chimed in on the news and expressed her support of Tabassum.

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