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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

USC’s valedictorian speech cancellation stirs backlash

The controversy surrounding Tabassum's speech reflects broader societal tensions exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The University of Southern California (USC) has found itself embroiled in a heated debate over its decision to cancel the valedictorian speech of Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student, amidst escalating tensions surrounding the Middle East conflict. This decision has ignited discussions on campus security, freedom of speech, and the complexities of navigating political discourse in academic settings.

Safety Justification

USC Provost Andrew Guzman defended the cancellation, emphasizing concerns about campus security in light of the intense emotions surrounding the Middle East conflict. He cited the “alarming tenor” of discussions surrounding the selection of the valedictorian and the potential for security risks and disruption at the commencement ceremony.

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Questioning the Motives

Tabassum, the biomedical engineering major who was set to deliver the valedictorian address, challenged USC’s assertion that the decision was solely based on safety concerns. She raised doubts about whether her exclusion was motivated by genuine security threats or an attempt to suppress her views on Palestinian human rights issues.

Lack of Transparency

Despite USC’s claims about security concerns, the university has not provided specific details about the nature of the threats or concerns surrounding Tabassum’s speech. This lack of transparency has led to speculation and criticism regarding the university’s decision-making process.

External Pressures and Polarization

The controversy surrounding Tabassum’s speech reflects broader societal tensions exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. External voices, including student groups advocating for Israel and Jewish interests, have contributed to a polarized atmosphere on campus, amplifying concerns about security and disruption.

Fear vs. Hatred

Tabassum accused USC of capitulating to fear and rewarding hatred, particularly directed towards anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiments. She argued that the decision not only silences her voice but also perpetuates a climate of intolerance and discrimination.

Allegations of Anti-Semitism

Student groups such as Trojans for Israel and We Are Tov have accused Tabassum of espousing anti-Semitic views based on her social media activity. However, Tabassum denies these allegations, stating that her advocacy for Palestinian rights does not equate to hatred towards Jews.

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In response to the cancellation, advocacy groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, have launched campaigns calling for USC to reinstate Tabassum’s invitation to speak. They argue that her exclusion sets a dangerous precedent for the suppression of dissenting voices on college campuses.