In the midst of statements back and forth between Duke and Joe Van Gogh, I urge students and all Duke affiliates to train their attention to the power dynamics at play in "Get Paid"-gate 2018. 

Duke’s Twitter account has shared their official statement, in which they cite that Joe Van Gogh’s ownership claims full responsibility for the firing of two employees. But everyone should ask themselves, “Who holds the purse strings?”

According to the first iteration of reporting, Duke made a formal request that Joe Van Gogh fire the two employees present. It was only after considerable backlash that Joe Van Gogh accepted full responsibility, signifying to me that Duke administration likely had a hand in this statement as well.

But the point is not who issues the formal statement, or who delivers the formal severance. The point is that Moneta found song lyrics unacceptable. It was through his urging that a chain of action began. What we end up with is a familiar cycle of relational power. It is not through magic or coincidence that Moneta’s desires were met. 

That Moneta should have anything to say about this music at all is laughable at best. Remember that he recommended we all read a book about the dynamics of hate speech in support of his policy to protect free speech on campus. Remember that he has refused to take responsibility for how fraternities and other campus institutions marginalize students of color, female students, queer students, first generation students and any student who lacks the privilege first assigned by the tobacco-rich Duke family. This man, with his history of flimsy ally-ship, cannot claim to have students’ well-being in mind. It seems unavoidable to see the irony in a school who wants to put black students on the cover of University catalogs but wants to regulate the artistic expression of black men, traditionally exhibited through rap.

Annie Krabbenschmidt, Trinity '15, is a second-year master's student in public policy.