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USC cancels valedictorian's graduation speech after anti-Israel social media posts, security concerns emerge

A Muslim valedictorian at the University of Southern California has been barred from giving a commencement speech after anti-Israel posts came to light.

A Muslim University of Southern California (USC) valedictorian has been barred from giving a speech at the school's graduation ceremony following a series of social media posts she allegedly made about Israel.

A spokesperson for the college directed Fox News Digital to information posted on the provost office website, which announced that Asna Tabassum will not deliver her speech at the ceremony that draws 65,000 people to the University Park Campus.

"While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety. This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation – including the expectations of federal regulators – that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe," Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andrew T. Guzman wrote.

Guzman also revealed he will work with faculty to reconsider how best to recognize undergraduate students' achievements, noting that many large universities have stopped selecting a single valedictorian.


"To be clear: 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," he stressed.

Tabassum is a biomedical engineering major chosen from nearly 100 student applicants with GPAs equal to or greater than 3.98.

The Los Angeles Times reported that after USC President Carol Folt announced Tabassum as valedictorian, critics took issue with her minor, "Resistance to Genocide", and social media comments she made about the Israel-Hamas war.

The university told the outlet that threats had been made through letters, phone calls, and emails to USC.

"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," Guzman added.

We Are Tov, a group dedicated to fighting antisemitism, accused Tabassum of promoting "antisemitic writings."


The group noted her Instagram bio linked out to a page calling Zionism a "racist settler-colonial ideology."

She also allegedly liked Instagram posts from "Trojans for Palestine" and called for the "complete abolition" of Israel, according to the Daily Mail.

Her account has since been scrubbed, but screenshots of her online conduct remain.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) has demanded that Tabassum be allowed to speak at the commencement.

"USC cannot hide its cowardly decision behind a disingenuous concern for 'security.' Asna is an incredibly accomplished student whose academic and extracurricular accomplishments made her the ideal and historic recipient of this year's valedictorian's honor. The university can, should, and must ensure a safe environment for graduation rather than taking the unprecedented step of canceling a valedictorian's speech," CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in a statement.

Tabassum also put out her own statement, claiming she has been subjected to a campaign of "racist hatred."

"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," she said.

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