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Students and workers reiterate sit-in students have no plans to leave at Tuesday press conference

Several media members met with protestors Tuesday afternoon

<p>Former PTS special events manager Renee Adkins told media members about&nbsp;how she was unfairly&nbsp;terminated and described&nbsp;the culture in the department Tuesday.&nbsp;</p>

Former PTS special events manager Renee Adkins told media members about how she was unfairly terminated and described the culture in the department Tuesday. 

Protestors said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the nine students staging the Allen Building sit-in currently have no plans to leave the building.

Felicia Arriaga, a Ph.D. student in sociology and member of Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity, read a statement to the media reiterating the group’s position that the administration has not acted “in good faith.” The statement also repeated the protestors’ request for administrators to allow workers to participate in negotiations and their position that closing the Allen Building was unnecessary. The group published the statement Monday evening.

Several media outlets attended the press conference, which was held at the intersection of Chapel Drive and Duke University Road.

“The decision to close the Allen building was made by Duke,” Arriaga read from the statement. “At no point did members of DSWS request that the Allen Building be shut down for any purpose or reason. Duke’s administration is simply choosing to close the building to disrupt classes and cast our campaign in a negative light.”

After reiterating that the sit-in students have no plans to leave the building, Anastasia Kārkliņa, Trinity '14, Ph.D. student in literature and African and African-American Studies and a media liaison for DSWS, noted that the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, is interested in learning about the protest, meeting with the occupiers and petitioning to gain access to the Allen Building.

Students will make a decision about whether or not they will continue tenting outside Allen in the cold weather, noted Danielle Purifoy, a Ph.D. student in environmental policy who participated in negotiations with administrators Monday.

Aaron Colston, a Ph.D. student in history who participated in Monday night’s “teach-in” outside the Allen Building, added that the students tenting outside Allen represent “a broad-based coalition” and that all students are welcome.

Renee Adkins, former special events manager for PTS who wrote an email to President Richard Brodhead Jan. 15 describing a culture of “racism, harassment, retaliation and bullying” in the department, spoke about her experience with discrimination at the press conference.

Adkins also spoke about the lack of consequences Executive Vice President Tallman Trask has faced after he hit contract employee Shelvia Underwood with his car and allegedly used a racial slur—which she described in her email to Brodhead.

“I don’t expect the administration that we [currently] have to do anything about this,” Adkins said. “They are in the habit of protecting their own."

Adkins compared her own termination to the handling of Trask’s case—noting that she was fired for insubordination after asking her boss, Parking and Transportation Services Director Carl DePinto, to “please shut up.”

She added that she believes current employees are still being subjected to discrimination and retaliation.

“My hope today is that by this press conference, someone will not only listen, but they will hear and do something about this,” Adkins said.

Dante Strobino, an organizer at UE 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, expressed support for students and workers protesting, noting that similar instances of discrimination occur across the state.

Strobino said his union supported the right of workers to organize, and reiterated the demand to raise the minimum wage for Duke workers to $15 per hour.

Demoncio Akins, a PTS employee, also spoke at Tuesday’s press conference to express support for the sit-in students.

Karklina noted that further updates about the sit-in would be provided later Tuesday.

Check back for updates on this developing story.


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