Headline RoundupApril 17th, 2024

Citing Safety, USC Cancels Valedictorian's Commencement Speech After Backlash Over Israel Views

Summary from the AllSides News Team

The University of Southern California canceled a valedictorian commencement speech, citing concerns for safety following criticism of the speaker's views on Israel and Palestine. 

For Context: USC previously announced that Asna Tabassum would be the Class of 2024′s valedictorian. Then, Tabassum, a Muslim biomedical engineering major, was accused of promoting “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric.” Critics, both on and off-campus, cited a link in her Instagram bio to a website describing Zionism as a “racist settler-colonial ideology.” 

Key Quotes: In an announcement dated Monday, USC Provost Andrew Guzman said debate about Tabassum’s expected speech had “taken on an alarming tenor,” adding, “we cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses.” Furthermore, Guzman wrote, “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.” Tabassum said she was “shocked” and “profoundly disappointed” by the decision. She accused USC of “succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”

How the Media Covered It: Coverage echoed prior divides on higher education and the war in Gaza. Some coverage from left-rated outlets centered Tabassum’s perspective, including a quote that she felt “abandoned” by USC. Meanwhile, some on the right accused her of doubling down on “her views,” including alleged “antisemitic rhetoric.”

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