USC Cancels Valedictorian’s Graduation Speech Over Security Concerns Linked to Her Views on Israel

USC Cancels Valedictorian's Graduation Speech Over Security Concerns Linked to Her Views on Israel

USC has revoked the graduation speech of Asna Tabassum, the 2024 valedictorian, citing security risks following backlash over her social media comments on Israel. This decision highlights the ongoing debate over free speech and security on U.S. college campuses amid broader geopolitical tensions.

The University of Southern California (USC) recently decided to cancel the graduation speech of Asna Tabassum, a student who was set to be the 2024 valedictorian, citing security concerns. This decision followed backlash over her social media posts regarding Israel. Tabassum, distinguished for her high academic achievements and active involvement in campus life, expressed her dismay over the cancellation, stating, “I am shocked and profoundly disappointed by the university’s decision.”

USC Cancels Valedictorian's Graduation Speech Over Security Concerns Linked to Her Views on Israel

She described the backlash as “a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice” and criticized her alma mater for yielding to pressure. Tabassum’s social media linked to a website advocating for the “complete abolishment” of Israel in favor of a “one-state solution” where both Arabs and Jews could coexist. The website also labeled Zionism as “a racist settler-colonial ideology.”

The controversy has sparked a broader debate on free speech within U.S. college campuses, especially in the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict that began last October. Pro-Israel campus groups, including Trojans for Israel, have argued against her valedictory honor, stating, “rhetoric that denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination or calls for the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world must be denounced as antisemitic bigotry.”

USC’s Provost Andrew Guzman explained that the decision to cancel Tabassum’s speech was strictly related to safety and security for the upcoming graduation, which typically hosts about 65,000 attendees. He emphasized, “This decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech. There is no free-speech entitlement to speak at a commencement. The issue here is how best to maintain campus security and safety, period.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned the university’s decision, accusing USC of using security concerns to mask a “cowardly decision.” This incident underscores the tensions surrounding discussions of Middle Eastern politics on American campuses and raises significant questions about the balance between free speech and campus safety.

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