USC President Defends Response to Pro-Palestine Protest

USC President Defends Response to Pro-Palestine Protest

President of the University of Southern California, Carol Folt speaks at a ribbon-cutting event in Los Angeles on March 28, 2024. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

4/26/2024

Updated: 4/26/2024

0

LOS ANGELES—USC President Carol Folt said Friday, April 26, the recent unrest on campus has been heartbreaking, but she defended the university’s response to a massive protest on Wednesday that ended with hundreds of police officers descending on campus and arresting 93 people.
“This week, Alumni Park became unsafe,” Ms. Folt said in a message to the USC community Friday. “No one wants to have people arrested on their campus. Ever. But, when long-standing safety policies are flagrantly violated, buildings vandalized, [Department of Public Safety] directives repeatedly ignored, threatening language shouted, people assaulted, and access to critical academic buildings blocked, we must act immediately to protect our community.
“USC has long-standing protocols that allow for peaceful protesting, and we have been working successfully with our community to ensure these rules have been followed at gatherings, protests, and vigils taking place all year. USC also has firm rules regarding harassment and bullying that we will uphold.”
The Friday message marked the first public comments by Ms. Folt since the university made headlines by barring pro-Palestine valedictorian Asna Tabassum from speaking at the upcoming May 10 commencement ceremony. USC has since announced that it has canceled the entire main stage commencement event—which annually attracts more than 60,000 people. The university will still hold the usual series of smaller satellite ceremonies at which students walk on stage to receive their diplomas.
In her message, Ms. Folt did not mention Ms. Tabassum, but said, “The current pressures and polarization have taken a toll in ways that break my heart. I know Trojans will do what they have always done: share points of view, listen, search for common ground and find ways to support each other.”
She did not directly mention the cancellation of the main stage commencement ceremony, but said the university is committed to ensuring a memorable experience.
“As students prepare for finals and our graduates look forward to celebrating their achievements at commencement—which we will do in just two weeks—we remain focused on what commencement means for all our graduates,” Ms. Folt said. “This is especially true for our seniors who did not have a high school graduation and spent their first university year online.
“Many of you have been on this journey together—from new student convocation to USC’s 141st commencement—for four years. Still others, like many of our graduate students, have shared even more years together. Many more faculty and staff have been working side-by-side with their colleagues throughout decades of service to our university.
“We are working around the clock to infuse this special day with new activities, surprises, and celebrations, while upholding traditions that are uniquely USC.”
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