USC’s pro-Palestinian valedictorian won’t deliver speech, school says

The University of Southern California (USC) says its valedictorian won’t deliver a speech due to “substantial” security risks after she had links to pro-Palestinian sites on her social media.

Provost Andrew Guzman released a statement Monday revoking Asna Tabassum’s ability to speak as valedictorian at her graduation ceremony.

“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. We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses,” Guzman said.

Tabassum got pushback after it was discovered she had links to pro-Palestinian sites on her social media that called for a one-state Palestine solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

“After careful consideration, we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement. While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety,” Guzman said, adding “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.”

Tabassum, however, isn’t convinced.

“Because I am not aware of any specific threats against me or the university, because my request for the details underlying the university’s threat assessment has been denied, and because I am not being provided any increased safety to be able to speak at commencement, there remain serious doubts about whether USC’s decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety,” she said in a statement, released through the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR said the school’s decision “empowers voices of hate, violates USC’s obligation to protect its students, and sends a terrible message to not only Muslim students at USC but all students who dare to express support for Palestinian humanity.”

USC will host around 65,000 people at its Los Angeles campus to celebrate the school’s more than 19,000 graduates on May 10.

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