USC Cancels Valedictorian’s Commencement Speech Over Safety Concerns

Nicholas Hatcher and Tali Arbel:

The University of Southern California canceled the commencement speech of its valedictorian, a Muslim student, citing what it described as security concerns amid the conflict in the Middle East.

In a letter published Monday to the USC community, Provost Andrew Guzman said discussion over the selection of the school’s valedictorian “has taken on an alarming tenor” in recent days. Asna Tabassum, USC’s 2024 valedictorian, was slated to deliver a speech at the university’s 141st commencement ceremony on May 10.

Since her selection as valedictorian, pro-Israel groups and social-media accounts, both on campus and from outside USC, have urged the university to reconsider. They have said Tabassum promoted antisemitic and anti-Israel views.

Tabassum said she is shocked by the university’s decision. She said she wasn’t aware of specific threats against herself or the university.

“By canceling my speech, USC is only caving to fear and rewarding hatred,” Tabassum said in a statement she released through the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.