Protestors announced Wednesday that President Richard Brodhead’s response to their demands was “too vague” and said the sit-in would continue.
Brodhead sent an email to the Duke community at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday announcing the University has committed to engage an independent expert to review Duke’s grievance and complaint procedures and plans to initiate processes to raise the Duke minimum wage above $12 per hour. Protestors responded at 7 p.m. with a list of conditions—which modified their initial demands—that they said the University must meet before occupiers leave the Allen Building.
Although none of the sit-in students spoke at the press conference, their supporters outside presented the modified conditions.
“While we are pleased that the administration has returned to the table, we believe actions are too vague, non-committal and non-comprehensive to be sufficient for exiting the building,” said Danielle Purifoy, a Ph.D. student in environmental policy.
Provost Sally Kornbluth, Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, sent an email to the occupying students following Brodhead’s email, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email. The email noted that the administrators would continue negotiations—if the students leave Allen.
“We offered to negotiate if they left the building,” Schoenfeld wrote. “That didn’t happen, so we're not negotiating and we’re done with demands.”
The email from Kornbluth, Moneta and Wasiolek noted that they hoped the sit-in students would take Brodhead’s email as “further evidence of our good faith effort to address the concerns you and your supporters have raised.”
“As we’ve said and must note, current litigation limits our ability to address other issues on your list,” the email reads. “But, we believe that we’ve taken a substantial step forward on behalf of Duke’s employees.”
Brodhead wrote in his email that the guidelines for contractors and their employees would be reviewed to ensure they “reflect Duke’s core values of civility, fairness and respect.” He added that the University hoped to “raise awareness of processes for the recruitment and review of senior administrators.”
To ensure these changes are implemented, Brodhead wrote he would appoint a steering committee with the advice of Duke faculty, staff and students. He wrote that the recommendations of the committee would be made available to the Duke community.
Purifoy, Felicia Arriaga, a Ph.D. student in sociology, and Bennett Carpenter, a graduate student in the literature department and columnist for The Chronicle, read a list of demands that are conditions for students to voluntarily exit the Allen Building.
The full list of updated demands can be viewed below.
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The first condition called for the University to hire “competent, outside employment counsel” approved by DSWS to annually investigate Parking and Transportation Services, the Duke University Police Department and the Office of Institutional Equity. They also demanded the University hire an independent consultant to conduct annual investigations of working conditions.
As a second condition, DSWS demanded that the University make wage data publically available and raise the minimum wage to $12.53 per hour—a standard set by the Durham Living Wage Campaign—by the end of the year and to $15 per hour by July 4, 2019.
The speakers said that the sit-in students would voluntarily end their occupation after the two conditions were met, but only if further negotiations commence within one week of their leaving.
The protestors noted that three of the original seven demands could be negotiated after the students exit the building. They had previously stated that the sit-in students would not leave until all of the demands were met.
The first of the three negotiable demands is the termination of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and Carl DePinto, parking and transportation services director. The second is an overhaul of Duke’s employment standards for contracted workers to make sure there is equity between contract employees and regular University employees. The third is transparency and community input in the recruitment and selection process of Duke administrators.
One of the original demands—that Trask should pay Shelvia Underwood for legal and medical fees—was removed. Protestors said they recognized that this demand should be adjudicated through current litigation.
Although Brodhead wrote in his email that the University will aim to “raise awareness of processes for the recruitment and review of senior administrators,” protestors said this was too vague.
Brodhead discussed hiring an independent expert in his email, but students said that they needed to receive firmer commitments before the sit-in students leave the building.
They added that the “steering committee” Brodhead announced was insufficient and that a number of University task forces have not yielded tangible accomplishments.
“Task forces are where demands go to die,” read one sign held up by the occupying students.
The University’s task force on bias and hate issues, convened after the first community forum last November, is scheduled to issue a report in mid-April.
The sit-in began last Friday in response to allegations of discriminatory behavior in PTS and revelations that Trask hit contract employee Underwood with his car and allegedly used a racial slur as he drove away in 2014.
Speakers also addressed the fact that occupiers were on the Allen Building’s balcony despite administrators telling the sit-in students earlier in the day that they were not allowed to do so, and that previously-granted amnesty would not cover being on the balcony. Purifoy said, however, that the administration should not be allowed to impose conditions on the “unconditional amnesty” they had granted earlier.
Schoenfeld wrote that the “balcony” students have been using is actually a roof and that the University already prohibits access to “roof areas.” Being on the balcony is not “explicitly covered” by amnesty, he added.
Students did not publicly check off any demands from their list after Brodhead’s email. The only two demands currently met have been unconditional amnesty last Sunday and a public apology from Trask last Monday.
The full list of updated demands from protestors can be viewed here:
Gautam Hathi and Amrith Ramkumar contributed reporting.
Check back for updates on this developing story.