USC Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Citing Safety Concerns

Individual school commencement ceremonies will proceed with additional security measures and a ticketing system.
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Published on April 29, 2024
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  • USC announced it is canceling its main commencement ceremony due to new security measures.
  • Individual school ceremonies will continue with added security precautions and a ticketing system.
  • The decision follows protests on campus demanding that the university divest from Israel.
  • The university previously announced that the Class of 2024 valedictorian would not speak at the main ceremony, citing substantial risks relating to security.

Almost two weeks ago, the University of Southern California (USC) canceled its pro-Palestinian valedictorian’s commencement speech, citing safety concerns. Four days later, the university announced it was redesigning the main commencement ceremony, canceling all commencement speeches to keep the focus on celebrating the graduates.

However, after pro-Palestinian protests on campus resulted in the arrests of 93 individuals, USC announced it is canceling its main commencement ceremony scheduled for May 10, citing new safety measures.

Graduates will be able to celebrate at individual school commencement ceremonies. However, they will be subject to additional security measures and a ticketing system.

We understand that this is disappointing; however, we are adding many new activities and celebrations to make this commencement academically meaningful, memorable, and uniquely USC, a university statement read.

USC announced the decision to cancel the main graduation ceremony, which usually brings some 65,000 students and their families to campus, one day after pro-Palestine organizations staged a Gaza Solidarity Occupation at Alumni Park, which resulted in the arrests of 93 individuals.

According to the USC Divest from Death Coalition, the encampment began early Wednesday morning. They plan to continue their encampment until USC meets their demands, including divestment of finances and endowment from Israel, an academic boycott of Israel — including canceling the university's Israel study abroad program — and a public statement calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

USC is one of several institutions that have seen protests on campus mere weeks before the end of the semester.

On April 17, student protesters established encampments at Columbia University protesting the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, on the same day University President Minouche Shafik appeared before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce to address antisemitism on campus.

Since then, students have organized protests and encampments at Harvard University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles, among other universities.

The cancellation of USC's main ceremony comes less than two weeks after USC announced that valedictorian Asna Tabassum would not be speaking at the upcoming commencement ceremony, citing substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.

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, a university statement read.

The announcement was made less than one week after pro-Israel groups accused Tabassum of promoting antisemitic views, citing past pro-Palestinian posts that Tabassum had engaged with, according to the Daily Trojan.

I am a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim whose passion for service stems from the experience of my grandparents, who were unable to access lifesaving medical technology because they had been displaced by communal violence, Tabassum wrote in a statement. I was hoping to use my commencement speech to inspire my classmates with a message of hope. By canceling my speech, USC is only caving to fear and rewarding hatred.

Many of the students graduating this year also did not get to attend their high school graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have taken everything, not just from the students who are graduating, but from the students whose voices desperately need to be heard from our valedictorian who they chose, one student told the Daily Trojan.