Protests Erupt At USC After Valedictorian’s Speech Canceled

( – Valedictorians, whether at the high school or collegiate level, work very hard to achieve the top GPA of their graduating class. At graduation, they typically give a speech, sending themselves and their classmates on to the next level of their lives. However, this year, the University of Southern California (USC) has decided to cancel the valedictorian speech, among others, citing safety concerns.

On Monday, April 15, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andrew Guzman sent a letter to the USC community acknowledging how special the commencement is to students, their families, and the faculty. However, he went on to say that the increased tension, “fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East,” has created an atmosphere that he feels isn’t safe. He then dropped the bombshell that the valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, would not deliver her speech at the ceremony.

The backlash was swift. It resulted in protests and calls from the community in support of Tabassum, who is a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim and biomedical engineering major. However, there was another side to the story, as well. Some speculate that USC made the decision after reviewing her social media and seeing that she liked anti-Semitic posts and made some of her own, allegedly calling for an end to the Jewish state.

Facing increased tensions, the university then decided it would be best to cancel all commencement speakers, including celebrity guests, for the event scheduled to take place on May 10.

Grassroots organization CODEPINK arranged a protest in Tabassum’s honor, which drew hundreds of supporters. They timed it to coincide with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 21.

Tabassum spoke with ABC News about the university’s decision and said she wanted her speech, which she says is “emblematic of USC’s unifying values,” to “impart a message of hope… of responsibility.”

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