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USC cancels 2024 commencement ceremony

USC cancels main stage commencement ceremony following protests
USC cancels main stage commencement ceremony following protests 04:11

The University of Southern California announced Thursday that it will cancel its main graduation ceremony, planned for May 10, 2024, due to "new safety measures."

The announcement comes amid the controversy surrounding the valedictorian address and pro-Palestinian demonstrators on campus.

2022 graduates attend The University of Southern Californias commencement ceremony
Dr. Carol L. Folt, president of the University of Southern California, addresses graduates attending the 2022 graduates at The University of Southern California's commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA. Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Last week, USC decided to bar biomedical engineering major and valedictorian Asna Tabassum, who is Muslim, from speaking because of security concerns. In a letter sent to college administrators, critics accused her of posting links and views on social media that promoted "antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric."

Over 50 student organizations signed a letter written in support of Tabassum, who last week accused USC of caving to hatred. 

"I'm just as committed to the lives of Jews as I am to Muslims or to Christians, or to any other sort of identity," she said. 

A petition demanding Tabassum be allowed to speak at commencement has gathered nearly 4,000 signatures.

A week after the decision to cancel the valedictorian's speech, protesters gathered in USC's Alumni Park following a trend of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at college campuses nationwide.

The protest lasted most of the day but began to end at about 5 p.m. Wednesday after the Los Angeles Police Department ordered demonstrators to move off the campus. 

"The Los Angeles Police Department is clearing the center of the UPC (University Park) campus. If you are in the center of campus, please leave; LAPD will be arresting people who don't disperse," USC tweeted at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

Many stayed in the area, locking arms as LAPD officers in riot gear marched closer to them. Others took out their phones and appeared to record what was happening as police started to surround the remaining demonstrators. 

After a few hours, the LAPD managed to move the protesters off campus, arresting at least 93 people for trespassing in the process.

Protesters lock arms as police approach their demonstration. KCAL News

"With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially," the school wrote in an announcement. "As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time and during a short window from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m."

RELATED: USC closes campus as LAPD arrests at least 93 pro-Palestine protesters

School officials said they plan to detail their plans for commencement by April 30 and it will be available on USC's commencement website.

"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, including places to gather with family, friends, faculty, and staff, the celebratory releasing of the doves, and performances by the Trojan Marching Band," the statement said.  

The university will continue to hold "dozens" of smaller commencement events, including the individual school ceremonies in which graduates are announced and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.  

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