Stop the silencing: Let student voices be heard

Former USC Valedictorians condemn the administration’s repression of free speech on campus and call for a public apology to Asna Tabassum.

By Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Ivana Tú Nhi Giang, Rose Campion, Sarrah Shahawy and Julianne Gale

To the USC administration:

We, former USC valedictorians, condemn USC’s repression of free speech on campus. Starting with the cancellation of Asna Tabassum’s valedictory address and culminating with the arrests of peaceful protesters and cancellation of the main commencement, these actions violate the values that we nurtured as Trojans.


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Valedictorians are tasked with vocalizing not only their own experiences but also those of their peers. While the title may honor an individual, the valedictory address belongs to the students. We wish to use the privilege of this title to amplify student voices as they embark on uncertain futures. Especially this year, when the future is so uncertain, students’ voices are all the more important. 

At USC, we learned the power of voice through our work as leaders, activists, performers, writers and scholars. Our courses taught us to speak our mind, speak truth to power, and most of all, that actions speak louder than words. The administration’s actions have articulated a position we cannot stand for.

We reject USC’s use of force to quell peaceful protest by intimidating, arresting and villainizing students. The University administration cannot continue to target and harm students under the premise of campus security and university operations. 

USC’s actions can only be seen as a persistent silencing of those expressing support for the Palestinian people and outrage at the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli government, which has funding from United States institutions. Calls for transparent investment profiles and divestment from organizations facilitating this war are legitimate and urgent. Silencing student protests undermines USC’s own professed commitment to global justice and our First Amendment rights.

We call on the University to allow peaceful protest on campus, to reinstate the students wrongfully suspended and to publicly apologize to the 2024 Valedictorian Asna Tabassum for canceling her commencement address. Let students speak. Let their voices be heard.

Sincerely,

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Class of 2021

Ivana Tú Nhi Giang, Class of 2019

Rose Campion, Class of 2018

Sarrah Shahawy, Class of 2011

Julianne Gale, Class of 2008

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