USC Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony, Increases Campus Security Measures Amid Protests


The main commencement ceremony at the University of Southern California has been cancelled. The decision comes just over a week after the university canceled plans for a graduation speech by the class of 2024 valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, who was criticized by pro-Israel groups for supporting Palestine on social media. USC will host individual school ceremonies as scheduled, but will implement additional security measures following protests and arrests made on campus.

“With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially,” the statement from USC reads. “As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time and during a short window from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.”

The additional security measures include a non-transferrable ticket process in which graduating students can request up to eight tickets. Tickets will be required for access to all commencement events and to the campus itself. The university also detailed a security screening process that requires attendees to carry their belongings in a clear bag. All campus access will be directed through particular points of entry.

Student degrees will be presented at the individual school ceremonies. The statement notes: “We are in the process of finalizing details.”

USC is now down a commencement ceremony and a valedictorian, and announced last week that the speakers and honorees who were initially scheduled to attend the primary commencement event — including Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu and tennis star Billie Jean King — would no longer appear.

The statement regarding their cancellation reads: “To keep the focus on our graduates, we are redesigning the commencement program. Given the highly publicized circumstances surrounding our main-stage commencement program, university leadership has decided it is best to release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s main ceremony.”


The “highly publicized circumstances” include the establishment of an encampment at USC as students protest Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestine. These displays have emerged across the country on at least 20 different educational institutions including Columbia University, New York University, University of Texas at Austin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, and more. Students have also prominently pushed for their universities to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Arrests have been made at multiple universities including USC, where 93 people were arrested after police cleared an encampment at the university’s center, according to the Los Angeles Times. It has also been reported that 108 protestors were arrested at Emerson College in Boston on Wednesday evening.