The independent news organization of Duke University

'We are staying indefinitely'

Sit-in student discusses the group's plans on day five of the ongoing protest

<p>The nine students occupied the Allen Building from April 1 to April 8.&nbsp;</p>

The nine students occupied the Allen Building from April 1 to April 8. 

With negotiations between administrators and the Allen Building sit-in students halted, The Chronicle communicated with one of the nine students, junior Carolyn Yao, via email about the students' plans moving forward.

The Chronicle: Are you still talking with administrators at all? Have they been in the Allen Building today?

Carolyn Yao: Administration walked out of negotiations yesterday afternoon and refused to continue going over the six other demands. They have not been in contact about demands since. Dean Sue, however, came into the building today with staff to collect some materials from their offices. We reiterated to her the importance of continuing negotiation with the broader coalition and having workers at the table.

TC: Administrators have said that they need flexibility in your demands. Are you prepared to offer any?

CY: We’re just the occupiers trying to bring attention to the demands—we are not the ones who should be deciding what is or isn’t a good deal. That should be determined by workers who have personal stakes in the outcome of these negotiations for demands. The admin isn’t allowing them input. We will continue the process when they recognize the worker voices that are critical for moving forward.

TC: How are you handling classes this week? We have heard that you have been excused from all of your assignments—is this true?

CY: Our academic deans are working with us to contact our professors (many of whom have been supportive) to make academic accommodations. For some of us, our short academic relief is ending tonight.

TC: What was the atmosphere like in the negotiations yesterday? Why specifically does the statement say that administrators do not understand your goals?

CY: No different than the other conversations we’ve had with administrators before negotiation. We continued to explain how important these demands were but they focused on simply removing us from the building, hoping to finish all demand discussion within a day or two. Our initial goal was to meet all seven demands according to workers' needs. The administration only agreed to negotiate with nine occupying students and selected faculty members, but has denied workers and other community members from joining the table.

TC: Administrators have said that they will keep the Allen Building closed as long as you are inside for safety and security reasons. How could you guarantee that if the building reopens and many protestors outside can enter that there would be no disruptions?

CY: To clarify, we are only staying in one hallway of the Allen Building where classes are not conducted. If the building reopens, students can enter and act out of their own volition, but we have repeatedly emphasized the peaceful and nonviolent nature of protesting for this cause.

TC: How long are you willing to stay in Allen? Are you changing your plans or setup inside the building to accommodate a possibly longer stay?

CY: We are staying indefinitely until our demands are met and are conversing among ourselves what our internal needs are to remain in closed-door occupation.

TC: Administrators said that they made proposals in an attempt to address some of your demands regarding working conditions. Do you think those proposals were helpful and have you considered them?

CY: We only negotiated for two hours and touched on two of the demands, after which the administration halted the process.

TC: Are you satisfied by the apology that Executive Vice President Tallman Trask has given?

CY: The demand was for a public apology. We worked with administrators and showed willingness to compromise. The other demands related to Trask are still yet to be completed.

TC: How did conversations shift over the weekend from administrators threatening punishment to promising a negotiation?

CY: Supporters and other DSWS members continued to pressure administrators from the outside and we remained committed to the demands. Administrators put everything from arrest to expulsion and disciplinary probation on the table. They began to understand that we weren’t leaving until the demands were met, so the conversation finally shifted from threats to negotiations. But, when we refused to talk without worker input, they walked away after only two hours and only two demands being addressed.

TC: Is there any particular reason you ordered food from Grace’s Cafe?

CY: [Vice President for Student Affairs] Larry Moneta ordered it. We have been in here for several days and accepted a hot meal. Not really important for the occupation or the larger issue that we’re working for. The administrators are detracting from their refusal to include workers in the negotiations.

TC: Is there anything else you think we should know?

CY: We are overwhelmed by the support coming from outside, and this movement has only been able to sustain itself with the love, labor, and energy from fellow students organizing, tenting, and engaging on the quad. The nine of us inside the occupation are only one piece in the larger picture of student and worker action.


Share and discuss “'We are staying indefinitely'” on social media.