Updated Apr 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

USC cancels main commencement ceremony after protests, arrests

Police escort students off campus at night walking two-by-two

Students are arrested by Los Angeles police officers after a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Southern California April 24. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The University of Southern California said on Thursday that it will cancel its main stage commencement ceremony after nearly 100 people were arrested on campus during a pro-Palestinian protest.

Why it matters: USC is the first known major university to cancel a graduation ceremony over the demonstrations, potentially opening the door for other schools with campus protests to follow suit.

Catch up quick: 93 people were arrested on Wednesday night by the Los Angeles Police Department for trespassing.

  • No injuries were reported.

Driving the news: The university's decision stems from the additional safety measures in place this year, it said in a statement.

  • The main ceremony usually brings 65,000 people to USC's campus.
  • Individual school commencements, doctoral hooding ceremonies, special celebrations and departmental receptions will still be held from May 8-11.

State of play: USC canceled its valedictorian's commencement speech earlier this month, citing safety concerns related to the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Asna Tabassum, USC's class of 2024 valedictorian, said the move was the result of an anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian "campaign of racist hatred."

Zoom out: Students at universities across the U.S. have organized encampments and demonstrations over the war in Gaza.

  • Many are calling for their schools' divestment in companies with ties to Israel.
  • After Columbia leadership testified to a GOP-led congressional committee last week, university president Minouche Shafik called on the New York Police Department to remove protestors from the campus.
  • The arrest of more than 100 people at Columbia catalyzed solidarity protests and encampments at other universities.

Go deeper: USC cancels Pro-Palestinian valedictorian's speech over safety concerns

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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