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USC Cancels Main-Stage Graduation Ceremony After Pro-Palestinian Protests

USC Cancels Main-Stage Graduation Ceremony After Pro-Palestinian Protests

Faculty join pro-Palestinian students as they protest the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, on April 24, 2024. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

4/25/2024

Updated: 4/26/2024

University of Southern California (USC) officials announced April 25 the cancellation of public graduation ceremonies on its main stage May 10 following a massive pro-Palestinian protest that ended in the arrest of nearly 100.
The university posted a graduation ceremonies update Thursday afternoon, saying new safety measures would be implemented for this year’s commencement events.
Among the new measures, ticketing would be required for all commencement events set for May 8 through May 11, and visitors would be processed through specific points of entry. The extra time needed to process the expected 65,000 students, families, and friends to attend the nearly two-hour main stage ceremony resulted in its cancellation, the school reported.
“We understand that this is disappointing; however, we are adding many new activities and celebrations to make this commencement academically meaningful, memorable, and uniquely USC, including places to gather with family, friends, faculty, and staff, the celebratory releasing of the doves, and performances by the Trojan Marching Band,” the school wrote in the update posted on its website.
The university will continue to hold “dozens” of other events for graduation, including all of the traditional individual school ceremonies where students cross the stage, have their names announced, are photographed, and receive diplomas.
“In keeping with tradition, we will be hosting all doctoral hooding ceremonies, special celebrations, and departmental activities and receptions,” the university said.
UCS’s Alumni Park was scheduled to host its graduation commencement ceremony May 10.

‘Occupy' Protests

The decision to cancel the main graduation ceremony was announced a day after hundreds of students and outside protesters overtook Alumni Park at the center of the campus.
Organizers of the USC occupation—identifying themselves as the USC Divest from Death Coalition—said they were taking the action “in solidarity with the people of Palestine as they resist genocide and continue in their struggle for liberation.”
The group attempted to “occupy” the park with tents and demanded the university end its ties with Israel and Israeli-tied investments.
Campus police attempted to clear the tents but were met with resistance as clashes between law enforcement and protesters broke out.
University officials closed the campus gates Wednesday afternoon and required students and staff to show identification to enter.
Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on April 24, 2024. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on April 24, 2024. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The demonstrations ended before midnight Wednesday.
University Provost Andrew Guzman said in a statement many people taking part in the protest did not appear to be affiliated with USC.
USC supports freedom of expression but prohibits tents and other encampments, the use of loudspeakers, signs on poles or stakes, and the disruption of classes, he added.
“The protest ... has ended,” USC said in a statement posted on X at 10:58 p.m. Wednesday. “However, the campus remains closed until further notice. Students, faculty, staff, and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification.”
Los Angeles Police Department officers arrested 93 people charging them with misdemeanor malicious mischief relating to refusing to leave a property.

Valedictorian Speech

Controversy around the graduation ceremony first arose last week with the school’s cancellation of a speech by pro-Palestinian valedictorian Asna Tabassum.
Officials reportedly received complaints about some of Ms. Tabassum’s online posts, which included a link to a website advocating the abolition of Israel.
The university’s decision disappointed members of its Advisory Committee on Muslim Life, which was created last year to provide a more inclusive environment for Muslim students. Eleven members of the committee resigned after the administration declined to reverse its decision last week.
USC announced Wednesday it had also scrapped all outside speakers and honorees at this year’s graduation ceremonies.
UCLA students protest the Israel/Gaza conflict in Westwood, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

UCLA students protest the Israel/Gaza conflict in Westwood, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Protest at UCLA

USC’s protest was one of many demonstrations breaking out at college campuses across the country this week.
A similar occupation started Thursday at USC’s hometown rival, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Protesters at the rival university set up an encampment on campus in solidarity with other demonstrations across the nation.
Hundreds of protesters reportedly erected a wooden fence alongside the encampment and set up numerous tents in front of Royce Hall, a defining image of the university.
UCLA’s Vice Chancellor Mary Osako said the university was monitoring the situation.
“Our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our entire Bruin community,” she said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times. “We’re actively monitoring the situation to support a peaceful campus environment that respects our community’s right to free expression while minimizing disruption to our teaching and learning mission.”
UCLA students protest the Israel/Gaza conflict in Westwood, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

UCLA students protest the Israel/Gaza conflict in Westwood, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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