On November 4, 2015, on the campus of the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas, hooded protesters vandalized university facilities and barricaded around 60 people inside a campus building, demanding a professors’ strike end and classes resume immediately.
The incident occurred against the backdrop of an ongoing, national crisis over funding for public universities. In September 2015, professors throughout the country began a strike, demanding that the government increase the budget for public universities. They alleged that the current budget failed to provide them with a living wage, and deprived public universities of the resources they need to operate properly. The strike is ongoing as of this report, and classes remain cancelled at 18 universities throughout the country.
On November 4, as a group of university officials and students met in the university rectorate building, hooded protesters reportedly arrived outside and demanded that classes resume immediately. According to reports, the protesters barricaded building exits with trash, preventing those inside from leaving the building until later that day, when police arrived and removed the barricades. The protesters also allegedly vandalized university facilities. UCV is the oldest campus in the country, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about acts of intimidation and vandalism on campus. While students and other protesters have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence, intimidation or the destruction of property. On-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Violence against persons or property also creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.