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Investigations into Duke student protesters dropped

The Duke University Chapel on Duke’s West Campus, as photographed in 2017, serves as a symbol of the university.

The Duke University Chapel on Duke’s West Campus, as photographed in 2017, serves as a symbol of the university.

Duke University’s Office of Student Conduct has dropped its investigations into the students who protested during President Vincent Price’s speech over alumni weekend.

On April 14, during an alumni weekend event, student activists rushed the stage in Page Auditorium, efficiently cutting off Price’s speech, to protest Duke policies and state their demands. 

The group left the auditorium and continued to protest at Duke Chapel, where other students joined them. They received a mixed response from the crowd in the auditorium, with some people cheering in support and others spewing hateful rhetoric.

Price expressed his concerns over the students disrupting the event in an email statement to in The Duke Chronicle April 17.

“It is unfortunate that these students, rather than approach me to discuss these issues in a more constructive manner, instead opted to disrupt others who were participating in a long-planned alumni event,” Price wrote. “Had they approached me with their concerns, I certainly would have been willing to speak with them.”

Protesters later received emails informing them the Office of Student Conduct had opened up inquiries into the events that occurred during the event. The coalition then arranged to speak with the president.

“A group of us met with President Price on Thursday,” protest organizer Gino Nuzzolillo said. “We had a discussion about the protest, and it sounded like we both came to an understanding on where each of us were. From that meeting, we got a commitment from President Price to meet with us again before the school year was out. We also got him to send us a public statement about his desire to continue working with us."

Duke history professor William Chafe said he, along with over 100 faculty members, signed a letter to the administration urging them not to punish the students who protested.

“Those of us who have been working with students for a long time agree that the initial efforts of seeking disciplinary action just seem to be the wrong way to resolve these issues,” Chafe said. “It’s much more important to talk than to punish.”

After the meeting with Price and other top administrators, the student conduct investigations into the activists’ actions were stopped.

“We are celebrating this win and are excited to hear that the administration chose the correct action,” the coalition said in a statement published in The Chronicle Saturday. "We look forward to working with the administration (toward) fulfilling our vision of a better Duke."

The coalition’s protest has brought a lot of attention to the group.

“Our coalition has since almost quadrupled in size now,” Nuzzolillo said. “We are close to over 140 folks who are plugged in. We're meeting tonight to chart long-term strategy and see how this energy is sustained.”

Nuzzolillo is hopeful for the future success of the group.

“I'm very optimistic,” he said. “Optimism paired with realism. We understand that it’s not going to be easy to implement some of these demands, but we have a strong coalition behind us. As more people get involved with this, we'll have more ideas, more debate. The manifesto will continue to change to represent what the actual People's State of the University is.”


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