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U.S.C. Cancels Valedictorian’s Speech After Pro-Israel Groups Object

The University of Southern California said it has canceled plans for a graduation speech by this year’s valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, who is Muslim. The school said the decision stemmed from security concerns based on emails and other electronic communications warning of a plan to disrupt the commencement, including at least one that targeted Ms. Tabassum.

“Over the past several days, discussion related to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” said Andrew T. Guzman, the provost, who added that he had made the final decision to choose Ms. Tabassum. “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 U.S.C. and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at the commencement.”

But the university declined on Tuesday to give details of where the communications were coming from or whether they were under criminal investigation. And its decision followed complaints about Ms. Tabassum’s selection by two campus pro-Israeli groups that cited her social media support for Palestinians.

Ms. Tabassum, a biomedical engineering major who identified herself as a first-generation American of South Asian descent, could not be reached for comment. But in a statement, she criticized the decision.

“I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the university is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice,” Ms. Tabassum wrote, adding, “There remain serious doubts about whether U.S.C.’s decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, also condemned the decision to cancel the speech as “cowardly” and demanded that U.S.C. reverse it.

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