Student sit-in at Duke University building ends

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The student sit-in at Duke University ended Friday just as it was about to enter its second week, with protesters heading toward an area they named for the black architect who designed the school and the president hoping to bring the two sides together.

A statement from Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity said the nine students moved out of the reception area outside the office of school President Richard Brodhead that they took over on April 1. They said they would go to a place they named “Abele-Ville.”

The space was named for Julian Abele, the architect who designed the Duke campus, but who they say went unrecognized until student activism raised his profile.

Brodhead issued a statement Friday saying he hoped the two sides could come together after a week of discussion failed to reach an agreement.

“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,” Brodhead said.

Duke relocated classes from Allen Building and banned visitors while allowing employees to come and go through one door. Several days into the sit-in, administrators said they wouldn’t negotiate until the students left.

Eight of the students remained Friday — one left for a poetry competition — but negotiations of a sort have continued. Through news releases and social media posts, students minimized their demands, and Brodhead offered to set up a steering committee to investigate some issues.

Supporters of the sit-in protesters also camped outside Allen Building, although there was little contact with those inside. The school banned the protesters from the building balcony, saying their amnesty from disciplinary action doesn’t extend to that area.

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said Friday that the protest has been a disruption on campus. “At the same time, there is no question that it has catalyzed discussion on campus about issues related to employment, respect, fairness and inclusion for all members of the Duke community,” he said.

Students said earlier this week they want a commitment by Duke to have an independent investigation of its labor practices; a commitment to raise the minimum wage for all campus workers to $12.53 per hour by the end of the year and to $15 an hour by the end of 2019; and commitment by Duke to negotiate the remaining demands with students and workers in coming weeks.

Those other demands include the firing of three administrators, including executive vice president Tallman Trask III. Trask, who was involved in a dispute with a contract parking attendant who says he used a racial slur, issued a public apology this week. The parking attendant, Shelvia Underwood, has sued Trask, who has denied using the slur.

The steering committee that Brodhead offered to establish would consider several issues, including hiring an independent expert to review the school’s grievance and complaint procedures and to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour.

The protesters rejected that offer.

Duke students aren’t alone in using sit-ins to advocate for a cause. About 80 students staged a sit-in Thursday night at the administration building at Appalachian State University to protest North Carolina’s new transgender law, WSOC-TV reported.

Student protesters have held a sit-in at the administration of the University of California-Davis since March 11, seeking the resignation of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Shorter sit-ins on issues such as rape on campus; prohibiting campuses from asking if job applicants have a prison record; and school investments have occurred recently at Howard, New York and Ohio State universities.


Martha Waggoner can be reached at Her work can be found at

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