USC cancels outside commencement speakers after valedictorian controversy staff KABC logo
Saturday, April 20, 2024
USC cancels outside commencement speakers, honorary degree ceremonies
Among those who had been slated to speak at USC were tennis legend Billie Jean King and filmmaker Jon M. Chu ("Crazy Rich Asians").

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Amid a controversy over the University of Southern California's decision to cancel its valedictorian speech, the school has now decided to "release" outside speakers and honorary degree recipients from participating in the main commencement ceremony.

The school announced Friday afternoon it is restructuring 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 ceremony," school officials wrote. "We've been talking to this exceptional group and hope to confer these honorary degrees at a future commencement or other academic ceremonies."

The scheduled main commencement speaker was to be director Jon M. Chu, who made "Crazy Rich Asians" and earned his BFA in film and television production from USC. Other honorary degree recipients that were supposed to be part of the ceremony were tennis legend Billie Jean King; Maria Rosario Jackson, head of the National Endowment for the Arts; and Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to the main ceremony on May 10, the school is also hosting 38 satellite ceremonies, five celebration events and 65 receptions. There were no changes announced to those events, which are expected to include speakers from within and outside the university community.

The new structure for the main commencement ceremony was not detailed, including names of potential speakers coming from within the university community.

Earlier this month, school officials announced they would not allow valedictorian Asna Tabassum to speak at commencement, citing security concerns. Tabassum had spoken out on pro-Palestinian views and had linked to posts on social media that critics viewed as anti-Semitic.

Students and faculty members have been protesting the decision, with hundreds marching on campus Thursday.

Tabassum spoke to Eyewitness News earlier this week, saying she was not given specifics by university officials.

"Almost a one-way conversation - and then the next day they came to me, they gave me a call and said 'It's unfortunate, but you don't get to speak,'" Tabassum recalled.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that the school is stating only "outside" speakers will be released from the main commencement ceremony.