Protesters pitched tents outside the office of Duke University’s president for a fourth day Monday, demanding the removal of three administrators — including one who allegedly used a racial slur when arguing with someone in a parking lot — and calling for a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.
President Richard Brodhead spoke with protesters on Sunday, who currently occupy his drawing room. Nine students have been there since Friday afternoon. On Monday, the protesters stood their ground, refusing to leave their post.
Another spokesman, Michael Schoenfeld, initially threatened criminal charges against the individuals, academic sanctions or both if they didn’t leave Sunday. But just before midnight, the school issued a statement saying that “in order to facilitate productive dialogue and move towards a peaceful resolution,” the protesters would not be given academic sanctions if requested. The statement said discussions would continue Monday.
Among the administrators the protesters want fired is a top executive who was involved in an altercation with a parking attendant two years ago. A lawsuit filed last month by the contract traffic control officer accuses Duke executive vice president Tallman Trask III of using a racial slur against her. Trask has said parking attendant Shelvia Underwood refused to let him park in his usual spot and stepped in front of his car, but said that he did not make any sort of racial comment. Campus police investigated Underwood’s allegations two years ago, but she “chose not to pursue her police complaint,” the university said in a statement.
A campus institutional equity office conducted their own investigation of the allegation. However, they said that “this investigation also did not produce sufficient evidence to confirm the allegations,” the statement said. Photos posted on the Twitter account of the campus newspaper show graffiti on signs and leaded-glass windows urging Trask’s dismissal. Other photos posted by the Duke Chronicle show dozens of enraged students chanting or seated on the lawn outside the administration building.
The university also said Duke’s current minimum wage is $12 an hour, compared with the federal and state minimum of $7.50. The school is pushing to require companies with which it contracts for campus services to also pay at least $12 an hour, Duke said in the statement.