USC Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Amid Protests, Arrests

(Bloomberg) -- The University of Southern California canceled its main commencement ceremony, citing safety concerns following the contentious decision to bar the valedictorian’s speech and escalating pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

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Dozens of smaller ceremonies for students at individual schools within USC will still be held as scheduled from May 8-11, the Los Angeles-based school said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

“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,” according to the statement.

“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.”

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The announcement comes the day after police arrested more than 90 pro-Palestinian protesters on the campus, many of whom USC officials claim were not affiliated with the university.

Earlier this month, USC’s 2024 valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, was barred from giving her planned commencement speech following criticism over her social media content about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

USC officials cited safety concerns as the reason behind the cancellation. Tabassum has accused the university of silencing her voice.

Read More: USC Cancels Commencement Speakers Amid Valedictorian Controversy

The USC protests are part of a nationwide movement taking place on campuses from Harvard to UC Berkeley calling for universities to cut financial ties with companies linked to Israel, for the US to stop military aid to the country, and for a halt to disciplinary actions against student protesters.

University administrators are grappling with how to balance free speech with maintaining order on their campuses, along with protecting students from harassment.

USC said that as part of its efforts to increase security around the commencement events next month it will require tickets for entry and restrict access to the campus through specific points of entry. Graduating students will be limited to reserving spots for up to eight guests.

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