University of Southern California faces backlash over graduation speaker decision


Los Angeles, California – On Friday, the University of Southern California announced further changes to its graduation event, cancelling a scheduled keynote speech by filmmaker Jon M. Chu. This decision comes shortly after the university previously decided to prevent the student valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, from speaking at the May 10 ceremony, citing safety concerns. Tabassum, a Muslim student who has publicly supported Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas conflict, was selected as valedictorian, which sparked a significant reaction that the university described as having an “alarming tenor.” No specific threats were mentioned by the officials.

Read also: Rick Caruso challenges mayor’s homelessness initiative in Los Angeles

The university’s actions received mixed reactions, with praise from pro-Israel groups and criticism from free speech advocates and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In response, students and faculty organized a silent march on campus on Thursday to protest the decision. The university now states that it is reworking the whole commencement program.

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

Jon M. Chu, who graduated from the university in 2003 and is known for directing movies such as “Crazy Rich Asians” and the upcoming “Wicked,” was originally set to give the main speech. The event is expected to draw a large crowd, with approximately 19,000 graduates and a total of more than 65,000 attendees.

“Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” Tabassum said in a statement earlier this week.

Read also: Brightline West to commence construction on Las Vegas to California rail connection

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has put universities in a difficult position as they strive to uphold free speech and encourage open discussions. This issue is especially prominent during the graduation season when commencement speeches are scheduled. On Thursday at Columbia University, New York police disbanded a pro-Palestinian protest camp and arrested over 100 protesters, mainly for trespassing at this prestigious university.

Several protestors, who are students at Columbia and the adjacent Barnard College, reported that they were also suspended following the protest. The university has stated that it is in the process of identifying all the students involved in the demonstration and anticipates that additional suspensions may be issued.

“Students have a right to free speech but do not have a right to violate university policies and disrupt learning on campus,” said New York Mayor Eric Adams, who said the city was asked by university officials to remove the encampment.

Joshua Caruzzo
Joshua Caruzzo
Josh is US News Hub power member. Yes, he really is. He is the one who covers local news about Los Angeles County including local news about Los Angeles, Long Beach and surrounding cities of Santa Monica, Pasadena, Irvine, Burbank, Arcadia and more…

Share post:



More like this

Pomona man arrested for shooting incident in Claremont that sent several injured to hospital

Los Angeles, California - On Friday evening, a violent...

Mayor Karen Bass announces historic investment to plug over 200 oil wells in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California - Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass...

Southeast Gateway Metro Line proposal gains momentum in Los Angeles County

Los Angeles, California - The Southeast Gateway Metro Line,...

Brightline West to commence construction on Las Vegas to California rail connection

California - This month, Brightline West is set to...