The work of education is to help students build a better world

Statement from UCWVA-VCU in support of VCU students and the VCU Liberated Zone

3 min readApr 30, 2024
Photo Jahd Khalil, via Twitter.

Tonight VCU Police joined with Virginia State Police in a horrifying and wholly unprompted act of violence against VCU students and workers who were camped peacefully on the lawn in an act of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Violence against students is an act of cowardice and shame. There can be no justification for such an unmitigated display of brutality against students exercising their rights to free speech on their own campus. The encampment built by VCU students today was an act of love, bravery, and solidarity. They spoke out for the humanity of others, only to see their school rob them of their own.

Members of our union are reaching out to their own students to check their safety, to hear their experiences, and to offer support where we can. All of us — faculty, staff, and student workers — are grappling with a profound violation of our community, our safety, and our trust. Those of us who work directly with our students know the trust parents hold when they send their children to our campus. We know the hopes these students have for a better world. We see the bravery they exhibit every day in their work to realize that world. We know how powerful they can be. We have no words for the images and reports coming out of campus tonight.

There can be no justification for the use of riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray, or weapons of war on students. There can be no justification for the presence of these tools of violence on our campus. There is no statement President Rao, Chief Venuti, Mayor Stoney, or any member of the Board of Visitors can put forward that can hide the violations of human rights we are witnessing on our campus, or in our city. Those “leaders” who condone these acts have no moral authority to govern.

Without students, there can be no university. VCU students acted tonight in concert with students across the country who are standing up against the genocide unfolding before our eyes in Gaza. Across the country students are engaging in campus-based protests that are part of a long and very powerful tradition. Student activism is a powerful vehicle for change.

Our students can build a better world; our work as educators is to help them birth it. That work cannot be contained to a classroom, nor can it be done without facing what happened on campus tonight. As we piece together what that work will look like tomorrow, we know what we have always known to be true: we do this work in community — wall to wall, with our students at the fore.

For those looking to support our students as they heal, rebuild, and continue to fight for a better VCU, we urge you to review the below resources:

Donate to the Richmond Community Bail Fund

Sign the Open Letter in Support of VCU Students’ Rights to Civic Engagement

Read VCU Students’ Field Guide to the VCU Liberated Zone

Teach your students about Palestine

Teach your students about the history of student activism on campuses




We are the VCU chapter of United Campus Workers of Virginia, a wall-to-wall union representing staff, faculty, graduate, and undergraduate workers statewide.