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regular-article-logo Saturday, 18 May 2024

University of Southern California cancels speech by student advocating for Palestinians, citing safety concerns

USC Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement on Monday that the decision to scrub the traditional valedictorian address at next month’s graduation had 'nothing to do with freedom of speech' and was simply aimed at protecting campus security

Reuters Los Angeles Published 18.04.24, 10:06 AM
Representational image

Representational image File image

The University of Southern California, citing safety concerns and passions around the latest West Asia conflict, has cancelled its valedictorian speech from a Muslim student who said she was being silenced by anti-Palestinian hatred for her views on human rights.

USC Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement on Monday that the decision to scrub the traditional valedictorian address at next month’s graduation had “nothing to do with freedom of speech” and was simply aimed at protecting campus security.

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The valedictorian, biomedical engineering major Asna Tabassum, in her statement, challenged the university’s rationale, questioning “whether USC’s decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety”.

Guzman’s statement did not refer to Tabassum by name, or specify what about her speech, background or political views had raised concerns. Nor did it detail any particular threats.

The provost referred more broadly to how “discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian had taken on an alarming tenor” in recent days.

“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in West Asia, 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,” he wrote.

As a consequence, “we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement,” Guzman wrote, adding, “tradition must give way to safety.”

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