- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - A Duke University administrator at the center of a sit-in outside the office of the school president apologized Monday, saying his behavior was neither civil nor respectful.

The statement from Tallman Trask III about a dispute two years ago with a parking attendant was posted on the school’s website Monday.

“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,” the statement reads. “I express my apology to Ms. (Shelvia) Underwood and to this community and re-commit myself to ensuring that these values are upheld for all.”

A lawsuit filed last month by Underwood, a contract traffic control officer, accuses Trask of using a racial slur against her.

Trask has said Underwood refused to let him park in his usual spot and stepped in front of his car. He has denied making any racial comment.

Protesters camped outside the office of school President Richard Brodhead for a fourth day Monday, demanding the firing of Trask and two other administrators. They’re also calling for a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.

Brodhead met Sunday with the protesters, who have been occupying a waiting room inside the building that houses his office and those of other top administrators. Nine students have been inside Allen Hall since Friday afternoon. On Monday, the protesters remained inside the building, which was closed to the public, Duke spokesman Keith Lawrence said.

Another spokesman, Michael Schoenfeld, initially said officials told the students they would face criminal trespassing charges, academic sanctions or both if they didn’t leave Sunday. But just before midnight, the school issued a statement saying that “in order to facilitate productive dialogue and move towards (sic) a peaceful resolution,” the protesters would not be subject to student conduct sanctions or legal penalties.

Campus police investigated Underwood’s allegations two years ago, but she “chose not to pursue her police complaint,” the statement said.

A campus institutional equity office separately investigated the allegation of an uttered racial comment. “This investigation also did not produce sufficient evidence to confirm the allegations,” the statement said.

Photos posted on the Twitter account of the campus newspaper show graffiti on signs and leaded-glass windows urging Trask’s firing. Other photos posted by the Duke Chronicle show dozens of students chanting or seated on the lawn outside the administration building.

The university also said Duke’s current minimum wage is $12 an hour, compared with the federal and state minimum of $7.50. The school is pushing to require contractors who provide campus services to also pay at least $12 an hour, Duke said in the statement.


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