Duke protestors ask school to remove three administrators

Student sit-in continues into sixth day

Student protestors at Duke University are occupying the main administrative building and demanding resignations from the school's three top administrators.

The students from the campus group Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity have been camped in the building since Friday, protesting what they call basic disrespect for workers. They have seven demands, including a $15 minimum wage.

As a result of the protest, several university leaders have been pushed out of their offices and forced to relocate temporarily.

In a letter to the student newspaper, The Chronicle, the group cites a pattern of discrimination by the school's parking and transportation services and says the trend indicates that Duke administrators fail to hold themselves to the same community standards they expect from students.

President Richard Brodhead met with demonstrators over the weekend, but protestors were unsatisfied and negotiations stalled. In addition to the president, the students have met with Duke's provost, vice provost, vice president for student affairs, associate vice president for student affairs, and faculty leaders.

Students to protesting peers: Rein it in

"The university is committed to completing these negotiations and reaching a mutually agreeable resolution in a peaceful and productive way," according to a school announcement.

On Monday, Duke's Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III, who is accused of hitting contract employee Shelvia Underwood with his car and calling her a racial slur before a football game in 2014, issued a statement and apology—though he denied intentionally hitting Underwood or calling her a slur. Trask is one of the three administrators students are asking the school to remove from their positions.

"While the details of what happened are a matter of disagreement and subject of civil litigation, I recognize that my conduct fell short of the civility and respectful conduct each member of this community owes to every other. I express my apology to Ms. Underwood and to this community and re-commit myself to ensuring that these values are upheld for all," he said.

On Tuesday, North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber came to campus to support the protestors.

Late Wednesday night, President Brodhead issued a statement announcing some concessions to the protestors, including initiating "the process" of raising minimum wage to $12 per hour and hiring an independent expert to assess the university's grievance and complaint procedures.

In response, protestors held a press conference and stated that they were not satisfied. Students remain camped out in the administration building as of Thursday morning (Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 4/4; Kenworthy, Christian Science Monitor, 4/4; Camp, ABC 11, 4/6; Logue, Inside Higher Ed, 4/7; Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 4/7).

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