Duke Students Occupy Administration Building in Racially Charged Protest

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A sit-in at Duke University entered its fourth day on Monday, as students occupied an administrative building to call for three school officials to resign and for Duke to offer a $15 minimum wage for campus workers.

The nine students who started the sit-in were largely protesting Tallman Trask III, Duke’s executive vice president, over a 2014 incident in which Trask was accused of hitting a parking attendant with his vehicle and calling her a racial slur as he drove away, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year.

Trask has denied using a slur against Shelvia Underwood, the parking attendant, but has admitted he unintentionally hit her with his car. On Monday, he issued an official apology.

“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,” Trask said in a statement. “I express my apology to Ms. Underwood and to this community and re-commit myself to ensuring that these values are upheld for all.”

The protesters occupied the second-floor lobby of the school’s Allen Building, which houses administrative offices, on Friday afternoon. On Sunday, Duke issued a statement saying the administration would close the building to the public on Monday. The school has been in discussion with the protesters and will not discipline them, the statement said.

On Monday, Duke administrators said they would not continue negotiating with students until they leave the building. “Closing the Allen Building while these negotiations go on has presented a significant disruption to students, faculty, staff and visitors, and cannot continue indefinitely,” the school said in a statement. “The university is committed to completing these negotiations and reaching a mutually agreeable resolution in a peaceful and productive way.”


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