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‘For Your Own Safety’: USC Cancels Commencement To Avoid Pro-Palestinian Protesters

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‘For Your Own Safety’: USC Cancels Commencement To Avoid Pro-Palestinian Protesters

Citing safety concerns amid nationwide campus protests against Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, the University of Southern California on Thursday announced that its 2024 graduating class will not have the traditional main commencement ceremony that brings all graduates together:

This news comes on the heels of the university’s controversial declaration that it wouldn’t allow its Muslim valedictorian to deliver a speech to her classmates — a decision that inflamed tensions and prompted an outcry against what was seen by many as an act of censorship and excessive deference to pro-Israel groups. 

More immediately, the cancellation also comes on the heels of mass arrests on USC’s campus on Wednesday. More than 90 people were carted off as police cleared protesters from their “occupation” of Alumni Park. As at Columbia University and elsewhere, the protesters are demanding that USC divest from Israel, much as an earlier generation of activists sought similar divestments from apartheid South Africa. 

On a statement to the campus on Wednesday, USC Provost Andrew Guzman noted that protesters — many of the whom “do not appear to be affiliated with USC”– failed to comply with direction to remove tents from the property. He also said protesters “actions have escalated to include acts of vandalism, defacing campus buildings and structures, as well as physical confrontation.”

Earlier this month, USC announced that its 2024 valedictorian is Asna Tabassum, a self-described first-generation South Asian-American Muslim who is a biomedical engineering major and resistance-to-genocide minor (details on that discipline here). Her selection sparked an immediate uproar from Zionist groups, including Trojans for Israel, which “advocates for the vitality of the US-Israel relationship,” and We Are Tov, which also promotes support for Israel. 

Tabassum’s detractors pointed to her social media history, with Trojans for Israel accusing her of “openly traffic[king] antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric.” 

Her supposedly disqualifying expressions included:

  • Sharing a link to a slideshow on “what’s happening in Palestine and how to help.” The presentation called for “one Palestinian state” and “the complete abolishment of the state of Israel,” according to the Times of Israel

  • Linking to a site that characterizes Zionism as a “racist settler-colonial ideology.” 

Students and faculty protesting USC’s cancellation of valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s commencement speech (Alan Mittelstaedt via LAist)

USC promptly caved to pro-Israel outcry: On April 16, it announced it had canceled Tabassum’s speech because “discussion related to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor” and that “the intensity of feelings…has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks.” At the same time, USC also cancelled appearances by speakers and honorees that included Billie Jean King and “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon Chu. 

After the USC decision, Tabassum issued a statement noting that, via her resistance to genocide minor — which emphasizes the Holocaust — “[I] have learned that ordinary people are capable of unspeakable acts of violence when they are taught hate fueled by fear. And due to widespread fear, I was hoping to use my commencement speech to inspire my classmates with a message of hope. By canceling my speech, USC is only caving to fear and rewarding hatred.”

As for the commencement cancellation, USC’s shut-it-all-down move echoes the excessive caution displayed by the American education system in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those echoes are all too loud for USC seniors — four years ago, many of them were denied high school graduation ceremonies in the name of “safety.”

Now, their college commencement ceremony has been similarly vaporized, only by a different set of quivering academics. 

After hearing the news, one of those seniors, who goes by @gracieflynn12, took to TikTok to vent: 

…but at least one especially admirable voice against the Covid regime is being consistent: 

Jonathan Turley summed up the situation succinctly: “The problem of violent protests and threats on campus is not solved by removing the potential victims. To yield this ground is to surrender control over not just the campus but the academic operations of the school. Higher education has to aspire to be more than a mere mobocracy where threats not logic prevail.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/26/2024 – 11:25

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