Miky Lee To Deliver USC School Of Cinematic Arts Commencement Address; Cancels Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Speech Over Safety

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has announced that Miky Lee will deliver the 20024 Commencement address.

James Gray, director, writer, and SCA alumnus, will receive the Mary Pickford Alumni Award at the graduation ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium on Friday, May 10, 2024.

“Miky Lee is a true pioneer and ambassador of collaborative global filmmaking, and we are so happy to have her share her insight and expertise with our graduating students,” Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, said in a statement. “Miky works across borders, cultures, and genres, and champions the kinds of projects our students aspire to creating. We are so pleased she agreed to be this year’s graduation speaker.”

SCA alumnus Jon M. Chu, who graduated in 2003 with a BFA in film & television production, will speak at this year’s main, university-wide commencement ceremony at 8:30 a.m. at Alumni Park.

As Commencement Speaker, Lee joins a recent list of celebrated entertainment figures including Brian Grazier and Ron Howard, Matt Reeves, Ryan Coogler, Jon M. Chu, Paul Feig, Jim Gianopulos, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Donna Langley, Barry Meyer, Ron Meyer, Sumner Redstone, Jay Roach, Stacey Sher and Laura Ziskin.

The Mary Pickford Alumni Award pays tribute to USC alumni whose achievements bring special distinction to the School and to the industry. Previous recipients of the honor include Prentice Penny, Kevin Feige, William Fraker, Conrad L. Hall, Ray Harryhausen, Alan Ladd Jr., Jon Laudau, Michelle Manning, Walter Murch, Shonda Rhimes, Jay Roach, Gary Rydstrom, Stacey Sher, John Singleton, Lee Unkrich, Matthew Weiner, David L. Wolper, Brian Grazer, Robert Zemeckis, Laura Ziskin, Melissa Rosenberg, Susan Downey, Jennifer and Suzanne Todd, Amanda Silver, Leslie Iwerks, and last year’s recipient Tracy Oliver.

USC also confirmed that their 2024 valedictorian speech had been canceled after Muslim student Asna Tabassum was accused of being antisemitic.

The university cites safety concerns over banning Tabassum from delivering her graduation speech.

“While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety,” Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement. “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.”

Guzman continued, “It applies the same values and criteria that we have used in the past to guide our actions. In no way does it diminish the remarkable academic achievements of any student considered or selected for valedictorian. To be clear: 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.”

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