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Not a good look, USC: Cancel culture comes for colleges as graduation season begins

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Cancel culture


At the University of Southern California, a recent decision was made to cancel valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s commencement speech in May, marking the first instance where USC has barred its top graduate from addressing the ceremony.



College officials cited concerns over the “disturbing tone” of social media interactions following Tabassum’s valedictorian announcement.



The escalating tensions in the United States due to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, particularly after Hamas’ aggressive actions against Israel on Oct. 7, have fueled this situation.



Critics expressed discontent over Tabassum’s pro-Palestinian stance, accusing her of promoting “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric.

Ongoing conflict


“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,” Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement. “This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation.”



A large group of protesters marched on the USC campus in response to the ongoing dispute surrounding the decision to silence Tabassum. USC has further exacerbated the situation by canceling appearances of additional speakers and honorees.



The treatment of valedictorian Asna Tabassum raises questions about fairness. USC’s actions not only infringe on the principles of free speech but also unjustly impact Tabassum. Tabassum expressed her surprise in a statement, stating that USC has “abandoned” her.



Violence should not be equated with free speech. Universities continue to grapple with challenges posed by antisemitic demonstrations.

Private institution


The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression criticizes USC’s handling of this matter. While USC is a private institution, it is expected to uphold principles akin to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Speech rights


FIRE highlights how California law mandates that private, non-religious colleges and universities grant students the same speech rights as those in the state’s public institutions.

Controversial views


“Implicit in the idea of a campus committed to robust expressive rights is that administrators won’t censor their students just because they have controversial views,” FIRE said in a statement.

Adrian College


Adrian College presents a more effective approach to managing controversy. In contrast, administrators at the private Adrian College in Michigan are dealing with their own “controversy” by largely disregarding it. Recently, the college revealed that Riley Gaines will be the commencement speaker on May 5.



Gaines, frequently labeled as an “anti-trans rights activist” in the media, is more than just that. She is a successful former NCAA competitive swimmer who gained recognition after tying with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the 200-yard NCAA freestyle championship race in 2022.

Women’s sports


Since then, Gaines has emerged as a vocal advocate for fairness in women’s sports and regularly addresses this issue at various universities nationwide.



A group of athletes is taking legal action against the NCAA, claiming that transgender regulations discriminate against them. Consequently, they have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA.

Pushback and violence


Gaines is accustomed to facing opposition, including instances of pushback and violence, on college campuses. Therefore, it likely comes as no shock to her that there are segments of the Adrian community who are displeased with her scheduled speech at the school.

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