USC cancels valedictorian speech over 'security' concerns

April 16 (UPI) -- University of Southern California valedictorian Asna Tabassum will no longer speak at her graduation ceremony, with the university citing security concerns.

USC Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement Monday that Tabassum would not deliver a speech after the discussion surrounding her selection as valedictorian had "taken on an alarming tenor."


"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 a substantial risk relating to security and disruption at commencement," Guzman said.

"We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses."

While Guzman did not point to any specific reasons for the concerns over security regarding the speech, complaints arose stemming from a link in Tabassum's Instagram account leading to a slideshow that calls for "one Palestinian state" through "Palestinian liberation and the complete abolishment of the state of Israel."

The campus group Trojans for Israel was among those who objected to the link on Tabassum's Instagram and called for it to be "denounced as anti-Semitic bigotry."


Tabassum, who described herself as a first-generation South Asian Muslim student who is graduating in biomedical engineering, said in a statement she was informed Monday that she will not be allowed to give the traditional speech at the May 10 ceremony.

"This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal," Tabassum said in the statement released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"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."

She said even though USC explained this was being done for security purposes, neither the university nor anyone else had shared and explained what type of threats and concerns she should be concerned about.

"Because I am not being provided any increased safety to be able to speak at commencement, there remain serious doubts whether USC's decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety," Tabassum said.

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