USC Alters Graduation Plans

In a startling move that has sparked outrage among some students and alumni, the University of Southern California (USC) has canceled the planned commencement speech of its student valedictorian and revoked invitations to all outside speakers scheduled to be a part of the ceremonies.

The decision, announced in an April 15th letter posted by the Office of the Provost, cited concerns about public safety due to the potential for protests and tensions over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. With an expected crowd of over 60,000, Provost Andrew Guzman explained that law enforcement may not be able to keep everyone safe if things were to escalate.

“Over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor. The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement. We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses,” Guzman wrote, noting that evaluation of social media had not been a part of the initial selection process.

The cancellation of the student valedictorian’s speech has sparked heated debate on campus, with protests erupting in support of her right to speak. And in a surprising turn of events, USC has now announced that all outside speakers, including notable alumni like “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon Chu and tennis legend Billie Jean King, will also be removed from the commencement program.

In a memo released Friday, USC stated that the decision was made in order to “keep the focus on our graduates” and that “university leadership has decided it is best to release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s ceremony.”

The move has drawn criticism from many who see it as a violation of free speech and an attempt to silence diverse perspectives. Others question the university’s initial selection process as the evaluation of social media was not taken into account.

Universities must encourage thoughtful and respectful discourse in a highly polarized and sensitive political climate. However, it is equally important not to allow dangerous anti-Semitic speech.