Latest coverage of the Allen Building sit-in

Student demands include resignations of 3 top university administrators

<p>Students demanded action from administrators Friday regarding the incident involving Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and contract employee Shelvia Underwood.&nbsp;</p>

Students demanded action from administrators Friday regarding the incident involving Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and contract employee Shelvia Underwood. 

Latest updates:

  • 5:15 p.m. Friday, April 8—At a celebration of the sit-in, the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, announces that the sit-in students plan to leave the Allen Building for their health and are leaving as "winners." Sit-in students then emerge, ending their week-long protest.
  • 6:10 p.m. Thursday, April 7—The administration sent an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that the Allen Building would be closed again for regular business Friday. Limited access will be allowed for Duke employees who work in the building from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, notes that administrators will not negotiate with protestors until sit-in students leave the Allen Building, even though protestors modified their demands in an effort to compromise. 
  • 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—The administration sent an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that the Allen Building would be closed again for regular business Thursday. Limited access will be allowed for Duke employees who work in the building from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—Protestors announce that an email sent by President Richard Brodhead announcing a new committee and administrative steps to meet certain demands are too vague to end sit-in. They note that their latest demands, which include employees getting basic healthcare coverage and a minimum wage increase and can be viewed fully below, are preconditions for ending the sit-in. 
  • 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—Student protestors issue an updated list of demands—which can be viewed here— that states that administrators should commit to negotiating about the original demands that have not yet been met. These demands include the termination of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and Carl DePinto, director of parking and transportation services. The updated demands also request that contract employees be paid the Durham living wage of $12.53 per hour by Dec. 31, 2016, and that the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour by July 4, 2019. At an ongoing press conference, protestors agree that ongoing civil litigation involving Trask and Shelvia Underwood, the contract parking employee he hit with his car, will address an original demand about reparations to Underwood. 
  • 6:25 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—Brodhead sends an email to the University community noting that a steering committee appointed by Brodhead and other students, faculty and staff will make recommendations to take four steps with the goal of "addressing issues of respect, civility, wages and inclusiveness for staff". The steps are contracting an unnamed independent expert to review the grievance and complaint procedures for staff, reviewing guidelines for contractors and contract employees, raising awareness of processes for the recruitment and review of senior administrators and starting a process to raise the Duke minimum wage of $12 per hour. Protestors previously requested that the wage be increased to $15 per hour. "The recent student protest is consistent with our own commitment to continually review and improve our workplace culture," Brodhead wrote in the email.
  • 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 6—Protestors were not allowed on the second floor balcony of the Allen Building Wednesday, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle from Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, to the sit-in participants. The sit-in participants have made a number of appearances on the balcony during the past few days to talk with supporters and make announcements. The protestors also announced in a Facebook post that administrators rejected a compromise proposal to include Duke workers in part of the negotiation process. Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, could not be reached for comment on the proposal in time for publication.
  • 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, April 5—Administrators announce that the Allen Building will be closed again for regular business Wednesday, but will be accessible for those who work in the building from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. via a side door. No visitors will be allowed, the second-floor administrative suite will be closed and classes in the building will continue to be rescheduled.
  • 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5—One of the nine sit-in students, senior Amy Wang, announces she is leaving to go to a national poetry slam contest in Texas. Wang says she plans to rejoin those inside the Allen Building if they are still there when she returns Sunday.

See our interactive timeline of updates on the continuing Allen Building sit-in:

  • 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 5—Sit-in students say they are staying in the Allen Building indefinitely.
  • 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 5—Protestors say the Barber was denied access to the Allen Building as protestors stay outside in front of Allen. Barber spoke with protestors outside the building, noting, "It does concern me that administration would not let two preachers in to pray" before leading a prayer outside and tossing a copy of the U.S. constitution to protestors and leaving the scene.
  • 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 5—At a press conference with several media outlets, protestors confirm that sit-in students have no plans to leave the Allen Building. They note that Barber is interested in learning about the protest, meeting with the occupiers and petitioning to gain access to the Allen Building.
  • 11:50 p.m. Monday, April 4—Administrators announce that the Allen Building will remain closed Tuesday as students refuse to leave voluntarily. An email to students and faculty notes that administrators are trying to ensure that classes can be relocated.
  • 8:30 p.m. Monday, April 4—Protesters held a “teach-in” near the entrance to the Allen Building. Students, faculty and community members discussed the historical context of the sit-in and gave words of encouragement to the occupiers. Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American studies, linked the current protesters to the 1969 student takeover of the Allen Building.
  • 7:45 p.m. Monday, April 4—The sit-in participants and protestors outside responded to the administration's decision to suspend negotiations in a statement posted on Facebook. The statement criticized administrators for not allowing Duke workers to participate in negotiations and noted that the protestors did not believe the Allen Building had to remain closed while the sit-in continued.
  • 6:00 p.m. Monday, April 4—In a Q&A with The Chronicle, administrators said they had shown good faith to the protestors and said that a decision would be made later on Monday as to whether the Allen Building would remain closed. They also discussed the impacts of the Allen Building closure.
  • 4:10 p.m. Monday, April 4—Administrators have said they will not continue negotiations with students sitting in the Allen Building until they leave the building because of the disruptions caused by closing the building Monday. The full statement can be read here.
  • 12:20 p.m. Monday, April 4—Trask put out the following statement regarding his incident with contract parking attendant Underwood: I want to say a word to the Duke community about my interaction with Shelvia Underwood in August 2014, which has been a subject of much recent discussion. While the details of what happened are a matter of disagreement and subject of civil litigation, I recognize that my conduct fell short of the civility and respectful conduct each member of this community owes to every other. I express my apology to Ms. Underwood and to this community and re-commit myself to ensuring that these values are upheld for all.
  • 11:20 a.m. Monday, April 4—Tents remain outside the Allen Building as those sitting inside meet with administrators. Protestors say that administrators let graduate students and faculty into the building as talks continue. The building remains closed for the day.
  • 11:50 p.m. Sunday, April 3—Students sitting in the Allen Building and administrators agree that there will be no disciplinary action against the students and that discussions will continue at 11 a.m. Monday. The building will be closed Monday to allow those sitting inside to remain there, students say.
  • 6 p.m. Sunday, April 3—The Chronicle spoke with two students sitting in the Allen Building, junior Lara Haft and sophomore Cindy Li, about their plans moving forward and their ongoing talks with administrators.
  • 2:20 p.m. Sunday, April 3—Students met with Wasiolek and President Richard Brodhead, who explained the punishment the sit-in students could face Sunday afternoon. The students said they could be issued misdemeanor charges for trespassing, then at a later unspecified time could be referred to the university judicial board and student undergraduate conduct board. After the referrals, students could be forcibly removed from the building, they noted, but they said they were not given specific times for any steps in the process. Schoenfeld met with media members Sunday afternoon and reiterated the responses administrators released Saturday evening, noting that because the incident involving Trask is going through civil litigation the University could not comment further with specifics. Schoenfeld did not provide any further specific information about what Brodhead said to the students in the Allen Building and did not provide a more specific timeline, but noted that University disciplinary action would come at some point Sunday.
  • 11:45 a.m. Sunday, April 3—Schoenfeld said that he would be available to meet with outside media at 1:30 p.m. in front of Perkins Library after Durham City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson, Trinity '03, tweeted that no outside media were being allowed on campus. One of the students inside the Allen Building, freshman Sydney Roberts, told The Chronicle that the protestors inside were meeting with President Richard Brodhead.
  • 10 a.m. Sunday, April 3—Students are protesting again outside the Allen Building after Johnson and Board of Education member Sendolo Diaminah spoke to the Allen Building sit-in students. The conversation between Johnson, Diaminah and the sit-in students was interrupted by a security guard, who closed the doors to the entrance to the Allen Building.
  • 5:45 p.m. Saturday, April 2—A banner has been tied outside the Allen Building saying "Occupied. No justice, no peace." Wasiolek and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, entered the building to speak with the students inside. Protestors said Wasiolek said students inside the building will be asked to leave Sunday and charged with trespassing if they do not. Students said they plan to stay inside and will organize a protest if they are arrested Sunday.
  • 4:10 p.m. Saturday, April 2—Schoenfeld confirmed that several administrators met with students in the Allen Building for more than two hours Saturday morning and that conversations will continue.

Original story:

A group of nine students launched a sit-in of the Allen Building and said they would not leave until Executive Vice President Tallman Trask is terminated after a protest featuring approximately 50 students and workers Friday.

Students gathered at the West Campus bus stop Friday afternoon to call for the resignations of Trask, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and Carl DePinto, director of Parking and Transportation Services. Protestors circulated a list of demands during the protest, which called for an independent investigation into the Trask incident and reforms in hiring practices, in addition to the resignations.

“This institution can have no ethical standing in our community or in the world if it concedes to such corruption and maltreatment of any person on or off campus,” said junior Mina Ezikpe, one of the nine students who is taking part in the Allen Building sit-in.

Franciscas Akins, a bus driver at the University, spoke to protestors gathered about the environment within PTS, and about other instances of discrimination at the University.

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident of workers’ abuse,” Akins said. “This is part of a larger problem of a hostile and discriminatory work environment in the Parking and Transportation department and Duke as a whole.”

The protestors Friday also criticized alleged harassment and discrimination at Duke and read statements they said were from Duke employees describing hostile work environments at the University. The statements alleged that employees have been fired because of their race and criticized administrators for their handling of the Trask incident.

“You have executives running over people, vehicles catching on fire and a system that blames the employee for what management and executives are doing wrong,” one statement read. “Duke has yet to live up to the reputation the world sees. I hope the truth comes out about who and what Duke is as an institution.”

The protestors then marched around Abele Quadrangle past admissions tour groups. A number of prospective students and families watched the protestors as they chanted slogans. Tour guides explained the protests to prospective students and families.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal on this campus in that it’s not a reason not to come to Duke,” one tour guide said to a tour group.

The nine students orchestrating the Allen Building sit-in also brought food and other supplies into the Allen Building preparing for their stay, which they said would last until all of their demands are met.

The students initiating the Allen Building sit-in were Ezikpe, sophomore Cindy Li, sophomore Ashlyn Nuckols, senior Amy Wang, junior Carolyn Yao, freshman Sydney Roberts, junior Lara Haft, sophomore Jazmynne Williams and sophomore Dipro Bhowmik.

“[Administrators] make so much money, and they are responsible to the employees. We are responsible to the employees because they make our lives as students possible,” said senior Taylor Johnson, who was one of the protestors. “We are shareholders, and we get a say in what happens.”

Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, told the students in the Allen Building that they would not be allowed back in the building if they left at any point during the weekend. Like many other administrative buildings on campus, the Allen Building is locked on the weekends and typically closes after business hours. Wasiolek declined to comment further on the situation to The Chronicle.

Students participating in the sit-in said they had received no response of any kind from people working in the Allen Building and had received no response from administrators other than their conversation with Wasiolek.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, noted that the Allen Building would be closed at 8 p.m. Friday and administrators plan to communicate with the students. The students initiating the sit-in will not be removed Friday night, Schoenfeld said, adding that the most recent sit-in of the Allen Building was approximately 10 years ago regarding the treatment of workers in sweatshops.

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, which helped organize the protest, wrote in an email that that there is a designated group of students responsible for providing food and water to the students in the Allen Building and emphasized that the students will not leave the building until their demands are met.

Friday’s protest came approximately a month after The Chronicle reported that Trask hit contract parking employee Shelvia Underwood with his car and allegedly used a racial slur as he drove off before a Duke football game Aug. 30, 2014. Underwood has since filed a lawsuit against Trask.

The Allen Building sit-in and preceding protest were not the first actions regarding the Trask incident and subsequent administrative response. Students gathered with former PTS employees March 9.

Likhitha Butchireddygari, Samantha Neal and Amrith Ramkumar contributed reporting. This story was updated Friday at 6:45 p.m. to include Schoenfeld's comments and Friday at 7 p.m. to include Kārkliņa's.

Roberts is a member of The Chronicle's editorial board.

Check back for updates on this developing story.


Share and discuss “Latest coverage of the Allen Building sit-in” on social media.