USC’s Valedictorian Barred from Speaking At Ceremony

Source: USC

The University of Southern California (USC) has taken a shocking step in a move that has surprised many people. Barring Asna Tabassum, the valedictorian of the graduating class from delivering her speech at the commencement ceremony was an unprecedented decision by this institution.

This was such a remarkable departure from tradition where it is expected that commencement addresses are delivered by valedictorians who are always individuals with the highest academic achievements in their respective classes.

Who is Asna Tabassum?

Asna Tabassum comes from Chino Hills, California and she is in her fourth year as an undergraduate biomedical engineering student at USC. Her academic excellence and dedication to studies made her committee’s choice among more than 100 applicants.

Source: The Economic Times

These applicants have GPAs ranging between 3.98 and above to become this year’s Valedictorian for our graduation ceremony. Asana’s becoming the valedictorian was an indication of hard work, steadfastness as well as strong academics.

The Controversy Surrounding Tabassum’s Speech

Pro-Israel groups sparked controversy when they denounced Asna for having a link on Instagram which they interpreted as being anti-Semitic. This link directed users to a website that had been created by someone other than Asna herself.

Source: Plann

It contained a photograph of a woman holding up a Palestinian flag above plumes of smoke during protests on the Israeli-Gaza border which took place last year.

The Website That Leads To Tabassum’s Ban

“Free Palestine Card” is one such site whose main aim is educating visitors about what happens in Palestine today alongside its ongoing conflicts.

Source: Flickr

Some statements even call Zionism a “racist settler-colonialist ideology” whereas others state how its founders considered “Palestinians needed to be ethnically cleansed from their homes.” These remarks have been branded antisemitic leading to discord over Tabassum’s choice for valedictorian.

How Did The University Respond To These Statements?

Provost Andrew T. Guzman noted campus safety and security as the reasons for not allowing Tabassum to speak. The university alluded to an unspecified threat, but it has not given more details about this threat in public yet.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This choice undermines USC’s commitment to free speech and its ability to support students when they come under fire.

Tabassum’s Reacted With Shock And Disappointment

In shock and disappointment, Tabassum spoke out saying, “The university is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”

Source: Flickr

She believes that the school made its decision influenced by external pressures rather than an impartial judgment of her character and beliefs.

The Community Reacted With Anger And Disgust

The United States’ largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), was among those who responded angrily online at the same time.

Source: Flickr

Consequently, many people consider this a violation of Free Speech Rights denied by Asna and also as another instance of colleges bowing down to external pressure.

The Incident Raised The Question Of Freedom Of Speech

This incident brings up questions about freedom of speech. In response, Guzman maintained that “there was no free-speech entitlement to speak at a commencement.”

Source: World Religion News

Such a statement implies that the commencement speech is seen by the university as a privilege which has sparked discussions concerning free expression during academic activities.

The Larger Context Of Disputes Between Palestine And Israel

This incident is happening during a period of fierce and violent disputes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel advocates on the campuses. The universities have become hot spots for these arguments, with students, lecturers, and administrators usually trapped in the middle.

Source: The DePauw

Such an occurrence at USC is indicative of this ongoing debate in many other institutions; it shows that colleges face hard times when it comes to grappling with such complex and sometimes controversial matters.

The Role of Social Media Regarding The Ban

This occurrence illuminates the power of social media in shaping public opinion and influencing organizational decisions. Asna’s Instagram post became a fulcrum of contention, which shows how social media can amplify voices but also expose individuals to scrutiny and criticism.

Source: TeamCommunity

This poses important questions about social media’s place in our society and its relationship with freedom of speech and expression.

What Was The Impact on Tabassum?

For Asna Tabassum, the consequence of this happening is huge. Her original idea was to use her graduation day speech as a platform where she could motivate other classmates as well as provide insights on how education can be used to create change in society.

Source: TheRoar

Barring her from speaking, has not only silenced her voice but has also deprived her of an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with fellow graduates.

The Future of Commencement Speeches

This incident could set a precedent for future commencement speeches and the selection of speakers. It raises questions about who gets to speak, what they can say, and who decides these matters.

Source: PickPik

As universities grapple with these issues, the future of commencement speeches could be shaped by the outcomes of these debates.

What Role Do Universities Play In Upholding Freedom Of Speech?

The incident raises questions about the role of universities in upholding or suppressing freedom of speech. As institutions of higher learning, universities have a responsibility to foster an environment where diverse viewpoints can be expressed freely and respectfully.

Source: Pexels

However, the decision to bar Asna from speaking suggests that universities may also face pressures to limit certain types of speech in response to external pressures or perceived threats. This incident at USC underscores the delicate balance that universities must strike in upholding free speech while also ensuring the safety and well-being of their students.

The Aftermath Of The Speech Ban

The aftermath of the incident is yet to be seen. It remains to be seen whether USC will reverse its decision in response to the backlash it has received. The incident has undoubtedly left a mark on Asna, her peers, and the broader USC community.

Source: Pexels

It has sparked a broader conversation about free speech, the role of social media, and the responsibilities of universities. The way USC responds to this incident moving forward will likely have implications for its reputation and its standing in the academic community.

The Incident Reignited The Debate On Freedom Of Speech

The incident at USC is reminiscent of ongoing debates around freedom of speech, issues surrounding social media, and the mandates placed on learning institutions. Moving forward we need to continue engaging in these discussions with an open mind and respect for others’ opinions.

Source: Flickr

The issue with Asna Tabassum involves more than just one student or school; it is a reflection of bigger societal tensions that need collective addressing. Let us bear in mind that dialogue, comprehension, and regard for each other are important aspects for dealing with such complex matters while contemplating this eventuality.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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