On August 30, 2014, Executive Vice President, Tallman Trask, hit Shelvia Underwood, a parking attendant, with his car, hurled a racial slur at her direction, and left the scene. In recent weeks, the Duke community learned of the various offenses by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III, Vice President Kyle Cavanaugh and Duke Parking & Transportation Services (PTS) Director Carl DePinto that have been committed.
At the moment, there are nine students occupying the Allen building, sitting in defiance for those who do not have the luxury to do so—those who work as parking attendants, as cafeteria workers, as security guards, as bus drivers, and for the many more who serve us. These nine students however, vehemently and willingly, stay grounded with the understanding that as Duke students, they are capable of creating the noise that the workers do not, in fear of losing their jobs, as demonstrated by Ms. Underwood’s experience - where their sustenance depends on staying on these three administrators’ good terms.
To the three administrators who benefit from the black and brown labor that built, sustained, and fortified Duke University, to the three administrators who still recognize with comfort that they could depreciate, demoralize, and disrespect the workers who, due to hundreds of years of systematic injustices, work to serve them, with no consequence - hold yourselves responsible to those who have felt mistreated by your actions.
These nine students walked into the Allen building with the intent of ensuring that justice be brought to the workers who were fired for their “insubordination”, to the workers who quit due to the disrespect they have received, and to the many more who have no option but to stand silent within an unfair environment, due to the urgent need to feed themselves and their family. The various accounts of workers should not be ignored or dismissed - they should be acknowledged and the administration should work to fix a better work environment for all their employees, rather than continually dismiss a pattern of hostility that feeds a discriminatory environment. These nine students, should in no manner, be reprimanded for practicing their right to mobilize, their need to stand up for those who cannot, and acting towards a less discriminatory environment for both its workers and its students.
We, students affiliated with the Women’s Center of Duke University, stand in solidarity with Duke University workers and the demands made to the administration not only in light of the recent violence from Tallman Trask, but in light of the violence historically faced by brown and black workers. We refuse to be silent in times of discrimination and abuse of power.
We, demand amnesty from arrest and Duke University disciplinary actions including, but not limited to: expulsion, suspension, disciplinary probation for all occupying students.
Eliza Moreno ‘18
Emily Chen ‘17
Bhavya Varma ‘16
Sarah Darwiche ‘17
Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi ‘17
Sammi Siegel ‘18
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