You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

Boston University president Robert Brown issued a powerful rebuke Wednesday to students who shouted obscenities at this year’s commencement speaker, calling them “appallingly coarse and deliberately abusive.”

Students at the May 21 graduation ceremony swore and jeered at David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery and a BU alum, chanting “Pay your writers!” in a show of support for the Hollywood writers’ strike.  

“Our students were not picking a fight. They were attempting to implement the cancel culture that has become all too prevalent on university campuses,” Brown said. “The attempt to silence a speaker with obscene shouts is a resort to gain power, not reason, and antithetical to the mission and purposes of a university.”

Brown said he apologized to Zaslav for the students’ behavior. He also expressed disappointment at the “insensitivity” they showed to the families “who came from far and wide to celebrate the success of a cherished relative.”

Still, the protesters composed just a small minority of those in attendance, he noted, acknowledging that “the right to protest and freely express strongly held convictions is essential to sustaining the liberal democracy we enjoy.”

But the event turned into an “unruly affair,” he said, marred by students who “forgot that in a liberal democracy, personal autonomy and freedom of speech come with responsibilities”—including “respect for the speech rights of others.”

It was Brown’s last commencement ceremony as president of BU. He is retiring after 18 years.