(CNN) — What was supposed to be a time of celebration for Asna Tabassum – the University of Southern California’s 2024 valedictorian – has turned to disappointment after the university denied her the chance to give a speech at commencement over security concerns.

“Over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” USC Provost Andrew Guzman said in an online campus-wide letter. “The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.”

Tabassum, a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim, would have delivered her speech at the graduation ceremony on May 10.

It’s an honor Tabassum is no stranger to: She was named valedictorian of her high school in May 2020 but due to the pandemic, she never got to deliver a speech, she told CNN on Tuesday.

And it’s an accolade Tabassum calls “an honor of a lifetime,” one her parents consider “a report card,” “evidence of their tireless work, love, support and the values and the characteristics that they’ve instilled in me for 21 years.”

“I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice,” Tabassum said in an online statement she released via the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles. “I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university – my home for four years – has abandoned me.”

As tensions in the Middle East rage on, Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza has yielded a dire humanitarian crisis while stoking angst across the world as supporters of Israel and Palestinians advocate online and in the streets, many in support of a ceasefire.

The change to USC’s commencement program only affects plans for a student speech, Lauren Bartlett, the university’s associate vice president for strategic and crisis communications, told CNN.

Bartlett declined to say what security concerns drove the school’s decision, saying, “In the interest of safety and security, we don’t disclose specific threats around the assessment.”

For her part, Tabassum harbors “serious doubts about whether USC’s decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety,” she said in the online statement.

The doubts linger “because I am not aware of any specific threats against me or the university, because my request for the details underlying the university’s threat assessment has been denied, and because I am not being provided any increased safety to be able to speak at commencement,” Tabassum said.

When asked whether Tabassum will still be permitted to participate in the graduation ceremony and what security measures were in place to secure her safety, Bartlett said she didn’t have that information. A Chino Hills, California native, Tabassum studied biomedical engineering with a minor in resistance to genocide and an interest in global health care equity.

USC student advocacy group Trojans for Israel accused Tabassum of sharing a link in the bio of her Instagram page that calls Zionism “a racist settler-colonial ideology” and advocates for the “complete abolishment” of Israel, it wrote in a social media post.

Tabassum said she posted the link, which she said details “what’s happening in Palestine, and how to help,” three years ago as part of her commitment to stand up for human rights.

Tabassum told CNN’s Abby Phillip Tuesday night that “the hate and the vitriol that was unleashed towards me after, I think, was part of the reason that the university caved in.”

“My goal when putting this link in my bio is to inform and in the spirit of academic discourse. I think people need to be informed, people ultimately can make their own decisions,” she told CNN.

“I don’t think, for example, my minor in resistance to genocide, or this link, should actually be looked in the confines or in the vacuum of the events after October 7th,” Tabassum said. “This is something that I have always stood for. And this is something that USC has taught me to stand for in terms of human rights.”

Yet Tabassum says those views “were stifled and were subject to hate.”

CNN has reached out to Trojans for Israel for comment.

“To be clear: this decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” said the provost, Guzman. “There is no free-speech entitlement to speak at a commencement. The issue here is how best to maintain campus security and safety, period.”

“While this is disappointing,” he noted, “tradition must give way to safety.”

But instead of canceling Tabassum’s speech, the university should take more steps to secure a safe graduation environment, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.

“Even though USC has maintained Asna’s position as valedictorian, the cowardly decision to cancel her speech empowers voices of hate and censorship, violates USC’s obligation to protect its students and sends a terrible signal to both Muslim students at USC and all students who dare to express support for Palestinian humanity,” Ayloush said in an online statement.

“My commitment to human rights and my commitment to equal treatment should not be signified as – or not be manipulated into – an expression of disunity,” Tabassum said.

Bartlett also did not have information about whether the school considered letting Tabassum share her speech before or after the graduation ceremony, she said.

Although Tabassum said she had not started working on the speech, she said it would have been “a message of hope.”

“I would implore my peers to reconsider and to consider the ways in which their education can allow them and offer them the responsibility to look at matters of the world and take them into their own lens, make their own decisions,” Tabassum told CNN.

While Tabassum is concerned in the short term for her and her family’s safety if they attend graduation, she says she isn’t considering a Plan B.

“That is my commitment and that is my due diligence towards the communities that see me as a symbol for their community,” she said. “And see me as a literal voice – and there’s the irony again – there as literal voice to be represented on a podium at such a level.”

Tabassum said she’s still hoping the university has a change of heart and reinstates her speaking privileges.

“That’s the only hope that I can hope for,” she said.

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