USC, Valedictorian, Muslim, Palestine

USC Cancels Graduation Speech Of Muslim Valedictorian Due To ‘Safety Issues’

USC's valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, believes anti-Muslim and anti-Palestine sentiments are the true cause for the speech cancellation.

The University of Southern California (USC) recently called off the graduation speech of its Muslim valedictorian due to safety concerns, according to CNN.

The news follows heightened global tensions regarding the conflict between Israel and the West Bank. In a message released on April 15, the school confirmed valedictorian Asna Tabassum will not deliver the time-honored speech.

“Unfortunately, over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” shared the University’s Provost Andrew Guzman. “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. We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses.”

Guzman added, “After careful consideration, we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement. While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety. 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.”

The news drew criticism of an alleged stifling of Tabassum’s voice and earned right, as reported by CNN. In her response to the matter, Tabassum shared a different story with the Council of Islamic-American Relations. She shared how the schools previously emphasized that they had the proper resources to ensure graduates’ safety during the ceremony. In the turn of events, she determined that Anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiments led to the updated decision.

“I am honored to have been selected as USC Class of 2024 Valedictorian,” wrote Tabassum. “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 continued, stating that she felt “abandoned” by her future alma mater with the change in action.

“I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice. I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred…[but] am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me.”

Tabassum also shared her “serious doubts” that USC revoked her speech for the alleged safety reasons. USC has yet to disclose any specific threats to the student.

Tabassum, who minored in resistance to genocide, hopes that USC will reverse its decision ahead of the May 10 event.