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VIDEO: Michael Schoenfeld, Duke University's vice president for public affairs and government relations, attempts to answer reporters' questions as protesters demand that an executive vice president be fired for his treatment of a traffic control officer.

Negotiations to resolve a student sit-in at the Allen Building on the Duke University campus is at a standstill, a student spokesperson told NewOne.

Anastasia Karklina, a media liaison for the Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity, said Monday evening that the university’s administration has been “hostile” to the occupiers since the sit-in began on Friday, following a campus protest.

“The administration withdrew from negotiations because they’ve refused to allow the campus workers to be part of the talks,” stated Karklina, a doctorate student in literature and African and African-American studies. “We are in a coalition with them.”

Duke University said in a statement on Monday that officials “have worked very hard” with the nine students holding the sit-in, and decided to grant them amnesty. President Richard Brodhead and other officials met directly with the students, but reaching an accord on all their demands will require “extensive conversations” and probably involve others in the Duke community.

The statement noted that closure of the administrative building that the students occupy has caused disruption. “As a result, the university will only continue negotiations after the nine students voluntarily leave the Allen Building,” the statement said.

 

Earlier in the day, the nine student occupiers received at least one of their seven demands.

The Duke University administrator at the center of the protest apologized to the school’s community about his encounter with a campus parking attendant, the Duke Chronicle reports.

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask’s statement, via the Chronicle, reads:

“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.”

Shelvia Underwood, the parking attendant, accused Trask of hitting her with his vehicle in August 2014. She alleges that the vice president also hurled the n-word at her during the incident, according to the Chronicle.

The university’s newspaper reported that Underwood received an apology from Trask after she filed a police report. She later filed a lawsuit as well.

According to the Chronicle, Trask originally denied the allegations. But he backpedaled when the newspaper confronted him with the apology note. He said hitting Underwood was unintentional, but continued to deny using the n-word.

Karklina called Trask’s apology today a positive step. “It’s a small victory, but only one step toward our demands,” she said.

According to Karklina, the students have six more demands on the table. Among them, they want the minimum wage for Duke employees and subcontracted workers raised to $15 per hour. She underscored that campus workers are part of “the movement.”

She said news of the 2014 incident came to light when the Chronicle published the first of a two-part series, in which employees in the university’s transportation service alleged widespread discrimination and racial abuses.

Many on the campus, Karklina explained, accused the administration of a cover up, and are angry about their slow pace addressing the alleged abuses. The protesters are demanding transparency and an independent investigation.

Racial tension has been high at Duke. Last year, a student admitted to hanging a noose from a tree on campus.

Karklina said there’s solid support from community leaders in Durham, including City Council Member Jillian Johnson and local union leaders.

Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal, who teaches African and African-American Studies, told NewsOne that he supports the students.

As one of the more visible Black professors on campus, Neal said he “feels as though it’s a responsibility on my part to be as supportive of the students as possible.”

He underscored that the protesters “made an important leap” by fighting for the rights of workers on campus.

“The students are able to see a humanity in these workers, and that’s what they’re pushing the university to do better with,” Neal stated. “It’s not just about the students, it’s about them seeing the quality of life for people who essentially take care of them.”

Karklina, who has not been a direct part of the negotiations, said, “this not a moment, but a movement.” She said the students view this standoff as something necessary.

 

 

 

SOURCE: Duke University Chronicle | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: Inform

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