USC Class of 2024 valedictorian’s speech canceled due to safety issues after Pro-Palestinian activity on her social media

The University of Southern California has canceled its Class of 2024 valedictorian’s speech due to safety issues after pro-Israel groups accused her of being anti-Semitic.

Asna Tabassum was scheduled to speak at the commencement but has since been told that USC will not allow her to do so due to safety concerns.

Tabassum released a personal statement through The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“I am honored to have been selected as USC Class of 2024 Valedictorian. 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.

“This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal: today, USC administrators informed me that the university will no longer allow me to speak at commencement due to supposed security concerns. 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. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me,” Tabassum wrote.

However, the university says Tabassum’s speech isn’t being canceled due to her political and personal views, but because of concern for her well-being after receiving backlash from pro-Israel groups.

An Instagram account with the handle @Israelwarroom put up a post on April 9 featuring Tabassum, and accusing her of posting and liking anti-Semitic views on her social media profile. However, the school insists that Tabassum’s speech is being removed to ensure no one is harmed during the commencement.

“After careful consideration, we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement,” USC said in a statement. “While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety…The issue here is how best to maintain campus security and safety, period.”

The school adds that it has allowed for open discussions and differing viewpoints to be a flashpoint for conversations on the campus during the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, our campuses have been open for numerous expressions of free speech by students and student groups, including rallies and demonstrations that run the entire spectrum of social and political opinion.”

CAIR-LA Executive Director, Hussam Ayloush isn’t satisfied with USC’s response, and reprimanded the school for its decision in a statement.

“USC cannot hide its cowardly decision behind a disingenuous concern for ‘security.’ Asna is an incredibly accomplished student whose academic and extracurricular accomplishments made her the ideal and historic recipient of this year’s valedictorian’s honor,” Ayloush wrote. “The university can, should, and must ensure a safe environment for graduation rather than taking the unprecedented step of canceling a valedictorian’s speech.

There has been at least one incident at USC since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began last October. A USC professor was also banned for his comments about the conflict but was reinstated a short time later.

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