Students conducting a sit-in at the Allen Building were told they would be asked to leave the building Sunday and charged with trespassing if they do not comply during a meeting with administrators Saturday evening.
The sit-in began Friday in response to allegations of discriminatory behavior within the University’s Parking and Transportation Services department. Students and workers issued a list of demands Friday calling for the removal of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask―who allegedly used a racial slur against contract employee Shelvia Underwood after hitting her with his car―PTS director Carl DePinto and Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh.
Protestors’ demands also included a call for a transparent review of Duke’s employment procedures as well as an independent investigation into the Trask incident.
Students met with Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, and Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. They were informed that they would be asked to leave at some point Sunday and would be charged with trespassing if they remained.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for government affairs and public affairs, confirmed that the students would be asked to leave Sunday and provided the administration’s full responses to protestors’ Friday demands.
“The students were told that at some point tomorrow they would be asked to leave the Allen Building. If they don’t leave the building they will be in violation of university policies, subject to disciplinary action, and trespassing,” Schoenfeld wrote in an email.
The protestors said that administrators were unwilling to tell students exactly when they would be expected to leave until the next morning and also called for other students to spread the word and protest outside the building Sunday if arrests are made.
Administrators’ responses to the student demands claim that “Underwood chose not to pursue her police complaint” and that “Duke has a long history of working with contractors regarding their practices to ensure that their employees are treated equitably and paid fairly.” The responses also noted that there is an ongoing lawsuit regarding the incident involving Trask and Underwood.
The full responses can be viewed in their entirety below.
Outside the building, students gathered to support the occupiers. Those inside unveiled a banner from the second floor of the Allen Building shortly before the demonstration began, calling the building “occupied.” Students gathered near the entryway demanding to be let inside as Wasiolek and Nowicki entered the building. After the meeting, Nowicki exited with security escort through a rear door amidst chants and shouts from students.
One PTS worker commended the nine “brave and bold” students inside the Allen Building for representing all workers.
“We’re going to push this out there, get this out there hopefully to CNN and local news channels and try to get them here, because once the world knows what’s happening, that’s going to put even more pressure on the University to do something about our demands,” the worker said.
No students have been allowed to enter the Allen Building since it was closed 8 p.m. Friday, but it was opened from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday so food could be delivered to the students sitting-in, the protestors said, but some students outside complained they felt unwelcome trying to do so.
“They treated us like we were dangerous, as if we didn’t belong to this institution,” sophomore Mohamad Chamas said.
Protestors would continue to speak out even if the occupiers are arrested Sunday, said Anastasia Kārkliņa, Trinity '14, Ph.D. student in Literature and African and African-American Studies and a media liaison for Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity.
“Whether they get kicked out or not, whether they get arrested or not, this is not going away,” Kārkliņa said. “Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity will continue pursuing this, will continue pursuing accountability and justice for black and brown workers at Duke.”
The full administrative responses can be viewed here:
Amrith Ramkumar contributed reporting. Check back for updates on this developing story.
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