Asna Tabassum, Pro-Palestinian Valedictorian Whose Commencement Speech Was Canceled Walks Stage Amid Wild Cheers

by Gee NY
Asna Tabassum, USC’s class valedictorian who was barred from speaking at the university’s commencement ceremony, graduates from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Amid a storm of controversy and heightened tensions, Asna Tabassum, the Muslim valedictorian whose commencement speech was canceled due to her pro-Palestinian views, received an overwhelming ovation as she walked the stage at USC’s Galen Center to accept her diploma during the Viterbi School of Engineering graduation ceremony.

Tabassum, a biomedical engineering graduate, was met with a prolonged symphony of applause from the crowd, which erupted in cheers as she made her way across the stage.

Her crimson graduation sash, adorned with academic achievements and the phrase “praise be to God” in Arabic, stood as a testament to her resilience in the face of adversity.

The decision to cancel Tabassum’s commencement speech came after university leaders received threats related to her pro-Palestinian stance, which sparked controversy over her Instagram account.

Despite the backlash, Tabassum has maintained that she is not antisemitic.

In response to the canceled speech and the subsequent tension on campus, USC President Carol Folt decided to cancel the main-stage commencement ceremony, which typically draws thousands of attendees.

However, individual school ceremonies proceeded smoothly, celebrating the achievements of graduates like Tabassum.

During the Viterbi School of Engineering graduation ceremony, Tabassum’s peers rose to their feet in a show of solidarity, expressing their support for her in the face of adversity.

Tabassum, visibly moved by the gesture, laughed and raised a hand to her heart in appreciation.

While the ceremony was marked by moments of celebration, it also carried the weight of recent challenges faced by the USC community.

The sprawling campus was fortified with heightened security measures, reflecting the heightened tensions in the lead-up to the altered ceremonies.

Despite the uncertainty and disappointment surrounding the altered commencement plans, Tabassum’s triumphant walk across the stage is seen as a mark of resilience for the USC community.

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