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USC’s Valedictorian, Silenced by Controversy, Receives Thunderous Applause at Graduation


Asna Tabassum USC’s Valedictorian, Silenced by Controversy, Receives Thunderous Applause at Graduation. Amidst the turmoil and tension surrounding USC’s commencement ceremony, Asna Tabassum. The Indian American Muslim valedictorian whose speech was canceled due to controversy over her pro-Palestinian views, received an overwhelming show of support from the crowd at the Galen Center on Friday.

As Tabassum walked across the stage to accept her diploma during the Viterbi School of Engineering graduation ceremony. The audience erupted into a prolonged symphony of applause. Her entire biomedical engineering class, along with spectators, rose to their feet to honor her. Among the cheers, a spectator shouted, “Asna, I love you!” Her crimson graduation sash adorned with academic achievements and the phrase “praise be to God” in Arabic caught the eyes of many.

Despite the disruptions and disappointments over the altered graduation plans, the satellite ceremonies across campus proceeded smoothly, according to university officials. Joel Curran, senior vice president of communications, described the atmosphere as “joyful, celebratory, and without disruptions.”

The controversy surrounding Tabassum began when USC President Carol Folt canceled her commencement speech following threats related to a pro-Palestinian link on her Instagram account. The link, deemed antisemitic by some pro-Israel groups, ignited a storm of debate. Despite assertions from Tabassum that she is not antisemitic. The fallout led to the cancellation of the main-stage commencement ceremony, which typically draws thousands.

The campus unrest escalated further as students set up a pro-Palestinian encampment. The students demanded the university sever its financial ties with Israel. Police intervention resulted in numerous arrests. Despite these challenges, Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, commended the graduates for demonstrating dignity, moral compass, and grace amidst the global turmoil.

Tabassum’s walk across the stage symbolized not just a personal achievement. But a moment of resilience and unity in the face of adversity, resonating deeply within the USC community and beyond.

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