Duke Students End Weeklong Sit-In Over Treatment of Workers

A week after nine Duke University students occupied an administrative building to protest workers’ wages and treatment at the institution, the remaining eight protesters left the building on Friday afternoon, the Duke Chronicle reports.


The protest was sparked by details of a lawsuit filed by a parking attendant, Shelvia Underwood, against Tallman Trask III. In the suit, Ms. Underwood asserted that Mr. Trask hit her with his car on August 30, 2014, before a Duke football game, called her a racial slur, and then drove away.

Students’ demands included the firing of Mr. Trask, the university’s executive vice president, and two other administrators; raising the minimum wage for Duke workers; and granting amnesty for workers who are handling labor negotiations with administrators.

During the prolonged sit-in, the administration’s response was marked by prominent retreats, including a statement by Richard H. Brodhead, Duke’s president, that said the university would begin a process to raise Duke’s minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Although they are no longer occupying the building, the protesters said their effort to improve Duke’s treatment of its workers would continue.


After the students had departed, Mr. Brodhead issued the following statement: “Though we have disagreed about the specifics of their demands and their choice of means, I respect their underlying passion for making Duke and the world a better place.”

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