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‘Pay Your Writers’ Chants Overshadow Warner Bros. CEO’s College Commencement Speech

Passion doesn't pay the rent, David.

Warner Bros. Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav speaks onstage during the Warner Bros. Pictures Studio presentation during CinemaCon.

Do you hear that? Take it in, because it doesn’t happen very often. Yes, friends, that’s one of the one-percenters facing the reality that the general public doesn’t care for him very much. In this case, that one-percenter is the genius behind the HBO Max rebrand to just ‘Max’ (still scratching my head over that one), Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav, who got himself booed at Boston University over the weekend when he was there to give a commencement speech and pick up an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, as you do.

What was particularly hilarious about the whole thing was that Zaslav’s message to BU graduates was to “pursue their passion.” Excuse, me what?! This is a man who is currently embroiled in the ongoing WGA strike for refusing to pay writers a living wage in order to let them pursue their passions, but sure. Pay lip-service Zaslav! Fun reminder: Zaslav gets paid a lot of money. Most writers do not!

Since I would never deny the joy of witnessing the pure delight for yourself, here is a video of the crowd in action:

So who was behind the glorious chanting? Per Yahoo!News:

Students, including those with the school’s film and TV program, as well as members from the school’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, also participated by holding signs and disrupting Zaslav’s address, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Videos and photos posted online from the university’s Nickerson Field show Zaslav being interrupted the moment he hit the stage. As he spoke, he received jeers from the crowd, with protestors chanting “Pay your writers” and holding up signs that read “WGA STRONG.”  A plane flew over the commencement as well with a banner reading “David Zaslav — Pay Your Writers.”

Zaslav, a graduate of BU, is certainly a choice to give a commencement speech while a central figure in an ongoing strike—a fact that was not lost on anyone except the out-of-touch millionaire hundreds of times over who just wanted to give a speech to graduating college students in his cool Raybans, I guess, and pick up a degree that means nothing to anyone but him. Some students at BU were obviously less than enthusiastic about Zaslav being there. Per BU Today:

Among the students who rose and turned their backs as Zaslav talked at the podium was Californian Sydney Shore (MET’23). She said, “My dad’s a writer and on the guild, and my older brother works for the writers.” She and her boyfriend, Seth Helman (COM’23), also picketed with scores of guild members before the ceremony started. 


“I understand where they’re coming from,” Shore said. “But…it seems like [disinviting Zaslav] wasn’t even in debate, even though it upset so many people.” Helman said that the University ignored “the opinions and thoughts of the students, which is what’s most important about a university.”

As a reminder, it’s within Zaslav’s control to help end the WGA strike and make sure writers are paid a living wage. He just doesn’t want to do it. Per Yahoo! News:

“The message from students, writers, members of other unions and of the community is very clear: Zaslav and all of the company chiefs have to negotiate an agreement that addresses the very real challenges WGA members face, that make it possible for writers — and aspiring writers — to build and sustain careers creating the content that the companies rely on for revenue and profit,” Jason Gordon, director of communications for the Writers Guild of America, East, told Insider in a statement.

So, yeah, while it’s great to pursue one’s passion, it’s even better to be able to pay rent, feed, and clothe oneself. However, that didn’t fit into Zaslav’s narrative over the weekend, and I for one am glad the students of BU pushed back.

(featured image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and politics for five years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She has probably seen Cliffhanger more times than you. Team Edward 4-Eva.