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The University of Southern California has chosen to “release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s [commencement] ceremony,” which is set to take place May 10. This includes “Wicked” director Jon M. Chu, who was slated as commencement speaker, and honorary degree recipients Billie Jean King, Maria Rosario Jackson and Marcia McNutt.

In a memo released Friday, USC said the decision was made “to keep the focus on our graduates…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 statement continued, “It is important that our full attention be on our remarkable graduates. We will be celebrating their accomplishments in a way that reflects the unity we love so much about our Trojan Family.”

This announcement came less than a week after USC sparked controversy by barring its valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, a first-generation South-Asian American Muslim student, from delivering her commencement address.

As reported by the New York Times, USC provost Andrew T. Guzman said the university removed her speech from the ceremony over “substantial risks relating to security and disruption at the commencement.” He said over the weeks approaching the May 10 date, “discussion related to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor.”

USC also cited concern from on-campus Jewish groups, like Trojans for Israel, as a reason to not let Tabassum speak. The outcry came after she shared a pro-Palestinian link on social media.

In an official response from Tabassum, she stated, “I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the university is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice. 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.”



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