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USC removes outside commencement speakers after cancelling valedictorian’s speech

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The University of Southern California (USC) announced Friday it would be scrapping all outside speakers during this year’s commencement ceremony, just days after the university canceled its Muslim student’s valedictorian speech following a series of social media posts she made about Israel. 

“Given the highly publicized circumstances surrounding our main-stage commencement program, university leadership has decided it is best to release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s ceremony,” a statement posted on the university’s commencement website read. 

“We’ve been talking to this exceptional group and hope to confer these honorary degrees at a future commencement or other academic ceremonies,” the unsigned statement continued. 

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The statement went on to read that “38 satellite ceremonies, five celebrations, and 65 receptions” alongside the main stage ceremony would include “other internal and external speakers, and performers.”

The University of Southern California (USC) announced Friday it would be scrapping all outside speakers during this year’s commencement ceremony, just days after the university canceled its Muslim student’s valedictorian speech following a series of social media posts she made about Israel.  (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The announcement comes several days after USC announced it would be not be allowing biomedical engineering major Asna Tabassum to give her valedictorian speech during the main stage commencement, which draws 65,000 people to the University Park Campus.

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“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,” Andrew Guzman, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, wrote in the statement. 

Guzman stated that the decision was necessary in order to maintain the school and its students’ safety. 

USC valedictorian speech canceled

The announcement comes several days after USC announced it would be not be allowing biomedical engineering major Asna Tabassum to give her valedictorian speech during the main stage commencement, which draws 65,000 people to the University Park Campus. (X/Screenshot/Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“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,” Guzman wrote. 

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USC told The Los Angeles Times that they had received threats via letters, phone calls, and emails.

Tabassum appeared on CNN after her speech was canceled, saying she was not sorry not sorry about promoting “unequivocal and unconditional right to life for all people, including Palestinians,” which she claimed was the point of her anti-Israel social media posts that resulted in the school canceling her speech. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Tabassum appeared on CNN after her speech was canceled, saying she was not sorry not sorry about promoting “unequivocal and unconditional right to life for all people, including Palestinians,” which she claimed was the point of her anti-Israel social media posts that resulted in the school canceling her speech.

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“It’s unfortunate that, you know, human rights is controversial,” Tabassum said. She also claimed that her teachers and peers at the university were the ones that helped to shape her views.  

In response, antisemitism watchdog group “StopAntisemitism” accused USC of making the valedictorian out to be the victim, telling Fox News Digital, “What’s turned into denying the Jewish right to self-determination has now been masked by false calls of Islamophobia.”

Fox News’ Nikolas Lanum and Gabriel Hays contributed to this report. 

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