USC drops all outside speakers from commencement ceremony after controversy

The University of Southern California announced Friday it will now have no outside speakers or honorees at its commencement ceremony next month after previously cutting its valedictorian address. File Photo by Padsquad19/Wikimedia Commons

April 20 (UPI) -- The University of Southern California will now have no outside speakers or honorees at the school's graduation ceremony following a controversy earlier this week over its valedictorian address.

On Monday, the school's administration canceled the planned address by Muslim valedictorian Asna Tabassum, citing security concerns ahead of the main graduation.

Provost Andrew Guzman said at the time that Tabassum would not deliver a speech after the discussion surrounding her selection as valedictorian had "taken on an alarming tenor."

The decision drew widespread criticism, and in the wake of the controversy, USC further announced on Friday that no outside speakers will be allowed at next month's commencement.

"To keep the focus on our graduates, we are redesigning the commencement program," USC said in a statement. "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."

Honorary degrees will be conferred at a future date.

In addition to the main graduation, the Los Angeles-based school is also hosting 38 satellite ceremonies, five celebration events and 65 receptions, all of which seem to remain unaltered and retain scheduled outside speakers.

Director Jon M. Chu was scheduled to be one of the guest speakers at the commencement. Chu, who is best known for the comedy film Crazy Rich Asians, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Tennis great Billie Jean King and National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt are among those who were expected to receive honorary degrees during the May 10 ceremony.

Tabassum is a self-described first-generation South Asian Muslim American and said in a statement school officials did not elaborate beyond using the term "security concerns" as a reason for canceling her speech

"This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal," Tabassum said in the statement released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.