Duke students started a sit-in April 1 calling for the termination of Tallman Trask III.  He is accused of calling a black school worker a "stupid n***er" (Photos courtesy of Facebook/Duke University)

Duke students started a sit-in April 1 calling for the termination of Tallman Trask III. He is accused of calling a black school worker a "stupid n***er" (Photos courtesy of Facebook/Duke University)

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Students at Duke University have been engaged in a week-long sit-in since April 1 after claims began to circulate that the school’s vice president had called a black worker a “stupid n****r.”

Shelvia Underwood, a parking attendant, filed a complaint against executive vice president Tallman Trask III, saying that he hit her with his car during a football game in August 2014 and used a racial slur against her after she confronted him.  Upon filing her complaint, Trask issued her a written apology.

 

This is the note the school worker says she received from Trask.

This is the note the school worker says she received from Trask.

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Once the allegations became public, students began to protest and nine of them moved to occupy the building where Duke President Richard Brodhead’s office is located, asking Brodhead to meet several demands.

The students demanded that Trask as well as two other individuals be fired and asked for the school minimum wage to be increased to $15 per hour. The school met with them this week and offered to review its complaint policies and also to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour, but after half an hour of discussion, the students rejected the proposal.

Because of the refusal, the university said that it would not continue to meet with the students. Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, told The Duke Chronicle in an email: “We offered to negotiate if they left the building. That didn’t happen, so we’re not negotiating and we’re done with demands.”

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On Monday, Trask posted yet another brief apology about the incident on Duke’s website:

“…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.”

Student activists insist they will keep fighting until Trask is gone.  They’ve been granted amnesty by the school and won’t be arrested for protesting.

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