David Zaslav was met with boos and jeers while delivering a commencement address Sunday at Boston University amid the Hollywood writers’ strike.
In videos circulating on social media, graduating students and protesters can be heard chanting, “pay your writers,” and heckling the president of Warner Bros. Discovery as he speaks about lessons he learned throughout his career. A photo of an airplane flying over the ceremony with a banner that read, “David Zaslav — Pay your writers,” was also circulating online.
Outside Nickerson Field, where the graduation was held, demonstrators carried picket signs that read, “F*!# Zaslav! Solidarity with the writers.” Inside the stadium, graduates held up posters that read, “Who wrote your speech? Chat-GPT?” and “Ew, David” — a reference to the Emmy-winning sitcom “Schitt’s Creek.” At least one student had “BU students support Writers Guild of America,” on their graduation cap.
In addition to serving as the university’s commencement speaker, Zaslav received an honorary degree. The film executive studied law at Boston University in the 1980s before rising through the ranks at NBCUniversal and Discovery.
“I am grateful to my alma mater, Boston University, for inviting me to be part of today’s commencement and for giving me an honorary degree,” Zaslav said on Sunday in a statement provided to the Los Angeles Times. “As I have often said, I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value.”
This isn’t the first time Zaslav has faced public scrutiny. Last fall, the mogul came under fire for how he handled the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, which resulted in mass layoffs and the abrupt termination of several projects. Among the casualties was the Warner Bros. and DC Studios film “Batgirl,” which had already cost an estimated $90 million to make.
Amid mounting criticism, Zaslav doubled down on the studio’s controversial decisions to scrap upcoming titles such as “Batgirl” and remove existing content from its streaming platform.
“Let me be clear,” Zaslav said in November. “We did not get rid of any show that was helping us.”
Six months later, the writers’ strike commenced after contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers stalled. The WGA is demanding better pay, residuals for streaming content and higher contributions to the union’s health and pension plan for its members.
At least one Warner Bros. Discovery property, HBO’s “The House of the Dragon,” has continued filming through the work stoppage after stockpiling scripts ahead of the strike. Hit series like Netflix’s “Stranger Things” have halted production until the conflict is resolved.
Times staff writer Meg James and the Associated Press contributed to this report.