The Chronicle's top news stories of 2016

<p>The signed note by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, above, was given to a parking attendant after Trask hit her with his vehicle and allegedly used a racial slur.</p>

The signed note by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, above, was given to a parking attendant after Trask hit her with his vehicle and allegedly used a racial slur.

As 2016 comes to a close, The Chronicle takes a look back at its top 10 news stories from the year, beginning with number 10. Check back each day to see which story will be revealed next as 2017 quickly approaches.

1. Duke's Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hit parking attendant with car, accused of using racial slur

A parking attendant alleged that Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, the University’s primary financial and administrative officer, used a racial slur after hitting her with his car.

The parking attendant, Shelvia Underwood of Raleigh-based McLaurin Parking and Transportation, claims that Trask hit her with with his vehicle Aug. 30, 2014, before a Duke football game against Elon University, and called her a “stupid n*****” as he drove off. Weeks later, Underwood received an apology note signed by Trask after she filed a police report with the Duke University Police Department.

“Dear Ms. Underwood, I very much regret the incident before the Elon football game. I should have been more patient and I apologize,” the signed note reads.

Trask initially told The Chronicle that he categorically denied hitting Underwood with his car and using a racial slur. When presented by The Chronicle with the apology note, he acknowledged hitting her unintentionally but again denied using the slur.

Both Trask and Underwood hired attorneys—Dhamian Blue of Blue Stephens and Fellers, Trinity ‘00 and Law School ‘03, and Donald Huggins of Hairston Lane PA, respectively.

In an email to President Richard Brodhead Jan. 14, 2016, Renee Adkins, who served as special events manager for Duke's Parking and Transportation Services department from 2003 until January 2015, described the allegations against Trask in detail as part of a larger narrative about the culture of “racism, harassment, retaliation and bullying” in PTS.

Brodhead reiterated in an email to The Chronicle that police and OIE investigations found no evidence to corroborate the use of a racial slur.

“There is no question that Dr. Trask behaved intemperately on this occasion, and he was right to offer an apology,” Brodhead wrote. “Dr. Trask has been an extraordinary servant of this university for over 20 years, and no one who works with him closely would find it believable that he would use such language.”

2. Penn provost Vincent Price announced at 10th Duke president

Vincent Price, the provost of the University of Pennsylvania, will become the 10th president of Duke University, when current President Richard Brodhead steps down June 30, 2017.

The Board of Trustees elected Dec. 2., wrote David Rubenstein, chair of the Board of Trustees, in an email to the Duke community. Price, who has served as provost at Penn since 2009, is also the Steven H. Chaffee professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and a professor of political science at Penn.

Price was the presidential search committee’s unanimous choice after an extensive international search, said committee chair Jack Bovender, Trinity ’67, Graduate School ’69 and vice chair of the Board of Trustees. The 19-member committee consisted of Trustees, faculty, students, administrators and alumni.

Price has been influential in giving Penn a global presence—helping launch the 2015 Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing and hiring a vice provost for global initiatives. He also helped Penn become one of the first universities to partner with online-learning community Coursera and also served as founding chair of Coursera’s University Advisory Board.

3. Employees describe discriminatory environment in Duke’s parking and transportation department

Following an incident in which Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hit a parking attendant with his car and allegedly used a racial slur, current and former member of the Parking and Transportation Services department said the event is connected to a larger problem within PTS.

The Chronicle spoke with 12 current and former members of PTS, who described the environment within the department as hostile and its current leadership as discriminatory.

Renee Adkins, former special events manager for PTS, wrote an email to President Richard Brodhead Jan. 15 describing a culture of “racism, harassment, retaliation and bullying” in the department fostered by PTS Director Carl DePinto and Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh. Several employees noted that in the parking division of PTS in particular, a disproportionate number of black employees have been terminated since DePinto arrived in October 2014.

Adkins wrote in the email to Brodhead that after Trask hit parking attendant Shelvia Underwood with his car, there was neither a public administrative response nor a thorough investigation by Duke University Police Department. DUPD is overseen by Cavanaugh, who reports to Trask.

Adkins added that the event was one of “innumerable incidents” in which she and members of her staff were called “n*****, coon, porch monkey, bull dagger and dyke while working Duke special events.” These occurrences were all “swept under the rug” by administrators, Adkins wrote.

In a statement, Cavanaugh wrote that although he cannot comment on the circumstances of individual cases, any complaints have been “thoroughly investigated and resolved.” Brodhead and DePinto did not respond to The Chronicle’s multiple requests for comment.

4. Duke community feels threat from Trump election

Following Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory, students reported significant distress, and several requested that midterms be postponed.

A number of students and faculty told The Chronicle that they feel fearful after seeing the results of the election, either for themselves or for their friends and family.

Students used posts on Facebook and other sites to share their fear and sadness, but also to reach out for support and to advocate for more political engagement. These posts often received dozens or hundreds of reactions from other students. Their tone generally mixed sadness and anger with defiance and hope.

5. Students initiate sit-in of Allen Building

A group of nine students launched a sit-in of the Allen Building from April 1 to April 8 to protest the treatment of workers at Duke.

Students called for the resignations of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and Carl DePinto, director of Parking and Transportation Services, following a report in The Chronicle that Trask hit a contract employee with his car and allegedly used a racial slur and a second article outlining allegations of a hostile work environment in the PTS department.

As the sit-in began, protestors—including members of Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity—inside and outside the building listed seven demands. These included the firing of Trask—who later issued an apology—along with Cavanaugh and DePinto as well as several targeting working conditions at the University. An eighth demand for amnesty from sanctions for protesting was later added and granted during the third day of the occupation.

Administrators shut down offices in the Allen Building and classes were relocated as negotiations with the nine students inside stalled.

Toward the later days of the protest, President Richard Brodhead announced the formation of a steering committee that would make recommendations for “addressing issues of respect, civility, wages and inclusiveness for staff.” Later that evening, DSWS issued an updated list of demands, outlining in greater specificity goals for increased wages and an independent review of working conditions at Duke.

6. House Bill 2 incites national criticism of North Carolina

House Bill 2 was passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate and signed by Governor Pat McCrory in March. The law overturns a February Charlotte ordinance that created anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ customers at private businesses and allowed transgender people to use restrooms aligned with their gender identity. It also prevents cities from implementing future anti-discrimination ordinances.

The act has led to national backlash as well as a hit to the state's economy with businesses and artists leaving the state.

McCrory recently called for a special session to consider repealing HB2. His statement came after the Charlotte City Council unanimously voted Dec. 19 to repeal a local nondiscrimination ordinance that Republicans have argued made HB2 necessary. However, the repeal also notes that the nondiscrimination ordinance will be enacted again if the General Assembly does not repeal HB2 by Dec. 31.

7. Brodhead announces retirement at end of 2016-17 academic year

President Richard Brodhead announced April 28 that he will retire June 30, 2017, after serving 13 years as president.

Brodhead—who is also the William Preston Few professor of English—became the ninth president of the University in 2004, succeeding former president Nannerl Keohane. After taking a year's sabbatical, he plans to return to teaching and writing.

“When I first came to Duke, I encountered a school that was clearly in the top rank of universities but that had a distinctive spirit within this group. Duke has an unusually strong sense of community, and what binds people together is a vision that Duke is still being created, still reaching for the further thing it could become," Brodhead said in a message to all Duke faculty, staff, students and alumni.

8. Duke inspects housing as students report mold problems

During the Fall semester, many students complained of mold in dorms and apartments.

An October email from Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez noted that three genera of fungal spores had been found through testing done by Housing, Dining and Residence Life: Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium—all of which can cause allergic reactions or lung infections.

Duke then contracted with the environmental and engineering consulting firm Duncklee & Dunham to test all Central Campus apartments for mold. HDRL administrators announced in early November that the tests had been completed and that they are working to evaluate the best responses for apartments that the tests showed needed attention—including cleaning the air handling units and using HEPA vacuums on furniture and carpets.

9. Students and faculty question proposal for Duke Energy facility on campus

After the University announced in May a proposal from Duke Energy to build a new natural gas facility on campus, some students and faculty members raised concerns about the proposed plant’s impact and a lack of transparency surrounding the initial stages of the facility's planning.

The $55 million, 21-megawatt combined heat and power plant would be owned and operated by Duke Energy Carolinas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy. According to the May announcement, the facility would be capable of reducing the University’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 25 percent. In addition to producing electricity, the combined heat and power facility would use waste heat to produce thermal energy and steam, which would be sold back to the University.

However, following the pushback from the Duke community, the plans for the plant were delayed. Duke Energy requested that the North Carolina Utilities Commission postpone a hearing on the proposed plant from Jan. 24 to late spring.

10. Duke Forward campaign reaches fundraising goal ahead of schedule

Duke Forward reached its goal of $3.25 billion July 12, almost a year ahead of schedule.

In September 2012, Duke announced the start of Duke Forward, its second and largest capital campaign to date with a goal of raising $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017.

Duke Forward set aside different fundraising goals for each of Duke's 10 schools, athletics, the libraries and "University-wide priorities." It also had goals for three campaign themes—boundaries not included, blazing new paths and fueling uncontainable ideas.

The campaign raised more than $390 million toward financial aid and established 77 new endowed professorships.


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