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Business News/ News / USC Bars Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Speech, Citing Safety
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USC Bars Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Speech, Citing Safety

Officials at the University of Southern California say their decision to cancel a planned commencement speech by the Class of 2024 valedictorian was motivated by concerns over safety and not because of complaints that the student’s pro-Palestinian social media posts were antisemitic.

USC Bars Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Speech, Citing SafetyPremium
USC Bars Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Speech, Citing Safety

(Bloomberg) -- Officials at the University of Southern California say their decision to cancel a planned commencement speech by the Class of 2024 valedictorian was motivated by concerns over safety and not because of complaints that the student’s pro-Palestinian social media posts were antisemitic. 

On Monday, university provost Andrew T. Guzman wrote “tradition must give way to safety" in an email to the campus community announcing the cancellation of the valedictorian’s address.

“To be clear: this decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech," he wrote. “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 valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, who had been selected by Guzman from more than 100 applicants, accused university officials of “caving to fear and rewarding hatred" by canceling her speech at the May 10 commencement ceremony in Los Angeles. 

“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," Tabassum wrote in a statement posted on the website of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “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 that she had been the subject of a “campaign of racist hatred" after pro-Israel groups publicized several of her social media posts that they deemed antisemitic and cited the link in her Instagram describing Zionism as a “racist settler-colonial ideology." 

The decision is the latest example of the tension on US campuses in a wave of protests and counter-protests over the Israel-Hamas war that have tested the limits of free speech. Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania both saw their presidents resign in the wake of controversial congressional hearings over antisemitism on campus. At UC Berkeley, law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife ejected a protesting student from a dinner party at their home.

Read more: Berkeley Professor Rattled by Antisemitism, Protest at His Home

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 17 Apr 2024, 01:18 AM IST
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