Current News



USC cancels Jon Chu, Billie Jean King commencement appearances amid valedictorian controversy

Angie Orellana Hernandez and Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California called off an appearance from director Jon M. Chu and other commencement honorees in the wake of growing controversy over its decision to cancel valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s graduation speech amid security concerns, the university announced Friday.

In a letter posted on its website, the university wrote that “given the highly publicized circumstances surrounding our main-stage commencement program,” it made the decision to “release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s ceremony.”

“We’ve been talking to this exceptional group and hope to confer these honorary degrees at a future commencement or other academic ceremonies,” the unsigned letter said.

In March, the university announced that Chu, a USC alumnus and director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” would deliver the May 10 commencement speech at its main ceremony, which draws over 65,000 attendees.

Along with Chu, tennis legend Billie Jean King, National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson and National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt were set to receive honorary degrees.

King will still be the keynote speaker for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s satellite ceremony.


The university cited unspecified security threats in canceling the traditional valedictorian speech by Tabassum after pro-Israel groups launched a campaign against her because she posted a link on Instagram to a pro-Palestinian website criticizing Israel. The link contained content the groups considered antisemitic.

But in Friday’s round of cancellations, USC did not indicate there was any safety issue. Instead, it said it wanted to “keep the focus on our graduates.” There did not appear to be wide backlash against Chu, King or others.

USC declined to offer an interview about the unraveling commencement with President Carol Folt, who a representative earlier this week said had the “final decision” on the Tabassum cancellation and security matters.

Erroll Southers, the university’s associate senior vice president of safety and risk assurance, also declined to comment Friday.


swipe to next page

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus