(LOS ANGELES)— PEN America today criticized the decision by the University of Southern California to cancel the valedictorian’s speech at this year’s commencement.

The university cited security concerns over the valedictorian’s speech, telling the campus newspaper they have received threats against the student. The threats came after the student’s social media profiles were featured on websites like Israel War Room, which accused her of being antisemitic. The student herself has decried the decision.

PEN America’s Kristen Shahverdian, program director for Campus Free Speech, said: “This amounts to a heckler’s veto – this student should have been given the opportunity to give the speech that valedictorians before her had the opportunity to give. Student safety must always take priority, but it is hard to believe that USC couldn’t adequately secure the ceremony. The potential for disruption should not result in cancellation, especially when it comes after a student has been publicly targeted and threatened because of her political views.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057