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President's Statement on Monument Ave. Protests

Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017

Dear Members of the VCU and VCU Health Community,

This Saturday, a group of protesters plans to rally on Monument Avenue, just a few blocks away from the VCU Monroe Park Campus, in support of preserving Richmond’s monuments to the Confederacy. Counter-protesters also plan to assemble nearby in opposition. Public safety officials from across the region, including VCU Police, have a plan in place, but this is likely to be an emotionally charged, volatile and unpredictable setting.

For your safety, I strongly encourage all members of the VCU community to avoid this area Saturday. There is precedence for violence at this kind of demonstration, and your safety is my paramount concern.

We all have the freedom of speech, expression and peaceful assembly. As members of a research university community dedicated to education and creativity, we take those freedoms seriously. We also have the autonomy of sound judgment, and we recognize that difficult or contentious debates can be productive only when the threat of violence will not drown out our voices. 

I will always support and encourage all of our people to stand up for your beliefs. But we must do so without physical confrontation and harm. Our educational mission—and indeed our democracy—depends on humans listening to and learning from each another and moving forward together, not silencing either by act or by intimidation of those with whom we disagree.

As the national dialogue becomes more vitriolic, we at VCU double-down on our core values of diversity, inclusion, civility and mutual respect. That commitment takes every one of us, from all backgrounds, working together across demography and discipline. Our diversity has always been our trademark, and we recognize that it is also what makes us great.

Our commitment also takes persistence, and the acrimonious national conversation tells us that we still have much to do. We must continue to speak up as a university community, to reinforce our values, to come together and to listen and learn from one another – always respectfully and always safely.


Michael Rao
VCU and VCU Health