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Duke University Wants To Arrest 9 Students To Cover Up A Hit-And-Run

Duke University Wants To Arrest 9 Students To Cover Up A Hit-And-Run

Duke University administrators welcomed members of the Class of 2019 to campus in August. One hit-and-run, one cover-up, and a slew of other racial slurs and instances of discrimination later, they’re now surrounding a campus building with police and threatening to arrest some of these same students.

A total of 9 students – senior Amy Wang, juniors Mina Ezikpe, Lara Haft, and Carolyn Yao, sophomores Cindy Li, Ashlyn Nuckols, Jazmynne Williams, and Dipro Bhowmik, and freshman Sydney Roberts – launched a sit-in on Friday afternoon calling for the resignation of multiple Duke administrators, hiring reforms, and an independent investigation into an administrator-involved hit-an-run. The students spent the night in the Allen Building, home of the Office of the President, and hung a banner Saturday afternoon reading “Occupied: No Justice, no peace.”

The student activists were finally acknowledged by the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sue Wasiolek and Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Steve Nowicki late Saturday, and were told that they would be asked to leave on Sunday and charged with trespassing if they do not leave by an unspecified time. The students have said that they do not intend to leave and will continue to protest if arrested. In the meantime, a fund has been set up in their support, while other students have been prevented from sending them food and supplies, also under threat of arrest by the police forces that have surrounded the building.

The backstory is something you’d expect to happen at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, not at one of America’s top universities:

Duke University Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hit parking attendant Shelvia Underwood with his car before a football game against Elon in August, before calling her a “dumb, dumb, stupid n____,” and driving away.

Underwood said she received a muscle contusion and a possible fractured elbow, and wanted to immediately file a police report about the incident, but her immediate supervisor, Meredith McLaurin, told her to wait and that it would be taken care of; following the delay, Underwood was told that she would have to file her report herself after all.

The Duke Chronicle reported that DUPD Investigator Arthur Holland eventually met with Underwood four days after she was originally hit, but that DUPD refused to provide Underwood with a copy of the report she had tried to file until she told them a lieutenant from the Raleigh Police Department had said they were legally required to show it to her. The copy of the report she received was clearly incomplete, although the DUPD maintains a complete copy is on file but is simply not public record as they are a private institution.

Throughout this whole ordeal, Underwood has maintained that she would not have taken legal action against Trask and the university if she simply received “a sincere apology.” However, sixteen days after being hit, the only thing she got was a card delivered by Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh – who also oversees the DUPD – from Trask that read “I very much regret the incident before the Elon football game. I should have been more patient and I apologize.”

The disgustingly tepid nature of the apology and the complete and utter lack of disregard for the well-being of an employee should be reason enough to be concerned about the current Duke administration – but that’s not even all of it. An investigation by reporters from the Duke Chronicle confirmed the suspicions of many that this incident is only part of a larger thread of discrimination and dehumanization that seems to make up the fabric of Duke University. 12 former employees of the Parking and Transportation Services department interviewed by the Chronicle stated that they had been subjected to extreme hostility by Cavanaugh and PTS Director Carl Pinto. Renee Adkins, PTS former special events manager, told the Chronicle how she and her staff had been called “n_____, coon, porch monkey, bull dagger and dyke while working Duke special events,” on multiple occasions, in addition to being targeted unfairly by certain cell phone policies that did not appear to apply to white employees, among other offenses. Again, it appears that no one in Duke’s administration has responded adequately to these complaints, and that “specific complaints against Mr. DePinto, filed through Duke Human Resources, the Office of Institutional Equity and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have not been meaningfully addressed.”

These are, of course, only the complaints that have been filed, bearing in mind that numerous employees did not formally complain about their maltreatment due to fear of retaliation.

More than 20 days after the Chronicle originally broke these two stories, the administration still had not formally addressed them, prompting a student protest led by the newly-formed Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity. The group marched to the Allen Building, where the nine students began their sit-in.

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The blatant disrespect for the black and brown bodies that the university is built up and run on is not unique to Duke.

The precedent was set by the Concerned Student 1950 movement at the University of Missouri earlier this academic year – we have seen proof of how powerful a tool student protest can be in demanding universities right the wrongs of their administrators (and take the at times even harder step of demanding universities acknowledge that they have been in the wrong to start with).

Muslim solidarity with these nine students and similar movements across the country is crucial. If we are not at the forefront of protests that affect our black and brown brothers and sisters, and if we do not stand up for our own interests, no one will. Even more importantly, we have a moral imperative to act in these situations: It is our Islamic duty to demand the humane treatment and respect of basic decency of our fellow human beings – Muslim and non-Muslim, blue-collar worker or upper-level administrator.

It is now Duke University’s turn to change history and make progress, but the direction this progress will take – whether forwards or backwards – remains up to the administrators in question.

(Photo credit to Darbi Griffith of Duke Chronicle)
View Comments (13)
  • “Duke University Wants To Arrest 9 Students To Cover Up A Hit-And-Run”
    Duke university wants to arrest 9 student NOT to cover up a hit-and-run but because they are illegally occupying a private facility that they have no right to occupy. Don’t distort it to fit your personal agenda.
    ~A current Duke undergrad.

    • So the cover-up is just a side gig? (Signed, a current Duke grad, and one who isn’t afraid to use his own name.)

        • you speak for no one but yourself and hide behind anonymity online – you’re the last person that should be telling anyone what to do.

          • One has to remain anonymous when dealing with you losers. You bill the ruining of lives as “progressive change”, and I’m not going to apologize for protecting myself when I am watching you shameful failures drag a man’s name through the mud with libel. I’m a better person than you, and even though I know your name, I won’t use it against you.
            According to his own drivel, Bennett only got into Duke because he is a white male; he has no other merit. He should practice what he preaches, and drop out. Since you were so brave in using your name and photo, you should join him, because your profile picture indicates that you should not be here either.
            You’re the one who speaks for nobody; as I’m sure you know, the vast majority of the student body here hates your lies and hates this “movement”. There is no institutional racism at Duke, full stop. You’re whining about a parking attendant and a handful of other underclass employees who have clearly lied and are looking for a payday.
            Regardless of what you think about my opinions, though, I have a pleasant fact to share with you: you’ve lost. This battle is over, the meek protest has failed and the student body is polarized against you because you chose this situation as your golden cross. From day one, nobody believed you, and now, nobody ever will for the duration of your (hopefully short) stay at Duke.

          • “I’m a better person than you” yet you use name calling to try and prove your point. You are presenting your self as someone who lacks empathy, maturity, and who is full of aggression. Whatever your opinions are, I hope you realize how you are presenting yourself. It is a good thing you didn’t use your name, because you have displayed yourself in a quite unfavorable light. The impression you have created in this post is that you are someone who is full of unjustified hatred, and are highly privileged. You seem to value the life of Trask above that of Underwood, dehumanizing her by simply referring to her as a “parking attendant”. Please note that your retorts also need work, “because your profile picture indicates that you should not be here either.” This is just embarrassing, you can’t judge someone’s right to be enrolled in an University by a profile picture. Next time please try to be Duke quality, because as of now you fall very short of the mark.

          • That’s nice. Try a substantive response for a change, instead of presenting me as the “bad guy” because I am upset about my tuition being diverted to non-issues. Because everyone is upset about the eggshell culture that you perpetuate, saying you “value the life” of someone who is trying to get money from the University and, consequently, from me. Meanwhile, you throw Trask under the bus without so much as a second thought.
            I use name-calling for a reason; I call a spade a spade, and you’re most definitely a loser.

          • XD LOL
            1) Trask threw himself under the bus? He himself admitted to hitting this woman and also to the racial slur.
            2) when did hitting someone with a car then calling them derogatory names become something we could file under “non-issue”
            3) im sorry, are we /not/ suppose to value /every/ human’s life? Wanting justice for one person isn’t an inverse relationship with the value of life for the other person (unless, i guess, if you’re in support of the death penalty)
            4) If your biggest issue here is your precious money going to someone you deem unworthy, then your best interest would honestly be to join/support the protest. If this ends with Trask being fired, it sets an example that saying racial slurs and hitting people with cars is unacceptable, so no one else will do it in the future. Ergo, no more incidents for “parking attendants and a handful of other underclass employees” to “lie” about to get their “payday”.
            5) “ruining of lives..” (see point 1) “…as progressive change” (see point 2)
            6)”there is no institutional racism at Duke” wait, do you actually go here? Does the cancellation of the call to prayer from the chapel because of alumni backlash misunderstandings about Islam ring a bell? Oh, how about the noose incident (which, regardless of intent, still struck a chord in our black classmates)? And the lacrosse incident (which, regardless of whose side you were on, still represented prejudice on both sides). How about the more recent All Lives Matter protest? Or the Black Lives Matter flyer? Or we could just talk about every account submitted to Me Too Monologues.
            I’m sincerely hoping you’re just a troll. Because if you can seriously look into the facts of everything presented (no allegations, no one-sided stories, just pure fact) and still have these solid opinions, well… I worry for the future

          • “The impression you have created in this post is that you are someone who is full of unjustified hatred, and are highly privileged.”
            How so? It seems to me that he’s merely outspoken. It’s the side that’s willing to ruin Trask’s reputation and career on hearsay that’s really acting hateful. —Lem.

  • Unfortunately, some of this information is incorrect. Please attempt not to contort information or misrepresent it. Thank you!

  • I hope your editors make you take this libel down. You are representing allegations against Dr. Trask as fact, which is illegal and burdens your publication with liability. Better hurry!

  • I think it’s fair to say the title is a bit sensationalized and certain allegations are misrepresented as facts. To my knowledge, nobody is denying that Trask hit Underwood. They’re denying that he used a racial slur. As far as I’ve read, nobody else corroborates his use of a racial slur — it’s her word against his, which in my opinion is insufficient evidence to decide the matter.

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