U.S.C. Cancels Its Main Graduation Ceremony, Citing Security Concerns

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The University of Southern California announced on Thursday that it has canceled its main-stage graduation ceremony for students, a move that follows campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war and a controversy over its selection of a class valedictorian.

This week, the university has been rocked by turmoil by pro-Palestinian protesters, resulting in the arrests of more than 90 people.

It was the continuation of controversy on the Los Angeles campus that began in early April, when the university selected a Muslim valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, a biomedical engineering major from Chino Hills, Calif.

Following complaints from several Jewish organizations that Ms. Tabassum, who is of South Asian descent, had posted a social media link to a pro-Palestinian organization, the university informed her that she would not be delivering the valedictorian speech, which is a tradition.

The university said the decision was based on a barrage of communications threatening to disrupt the graduation ceremony, which is attended by as many as 65,000 students and guests. But, in a statement, Ms. Tabassum voiced skepticism about the university’s motivation.

Last week, the university announced that speakers and honorees who had been scheduled to attend the graduation, including the “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu and the tennis star Billie Jean King, would not be present.

In making the announcement Thursday that it was canceling its “main stage” ceremony, because of new safety measures, the university emphasized that other graduation events celebrating individual schools would continue. In those ceremonies, students cross the stage, are awarded their degrees, and are photographed.

Past speakers at the main stage ceremonies have included the actor Will Ferrell and the author Siddhartha Mukherjee.



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