Durham County

Campus coffee shop was playing rap. Duke VP's complaint got employees fired, IndyWeek reports.

Protesters gather at the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on Duke's campus

Protesters gathered at the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on Duke's campus Wednesday afternoon in support of two baristas who were fired on Monday after a complaint from Duke VP Larry Moneta. One of the fired baristas, Britni Brown, attended the protest.
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Protesters gathered at the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on Duke's campus Wednesday afternoon in support of two baristas who were fired on Monday after a complaint from Duke VP Larry Moneta. One of the fired baristas, Britni Brown, attended the protest.

Duke University Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta visited the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on campus on May 4, as he frequently does.

But while in the shop, ordering his usual hot tea and vegan muffin, he heard and was offended by a rap song baristas were playing, according to Indy Week.

So Moneta and executive director of dining services Robert Coffey complained to the coffee chain, and two baristas at the Duke shop were fired, according to the Indy Week report on May 8.

On May 7, Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons, two employees of the Duke location of the Joe Van Gogh coffee chain, had their contracts terminated by the company.

The baristas told Indy Week they play music over the shop's speakers using playlists curated by Spotify.

Moneta was allegedly triggered by the song "Get Paid" by Young Dolph, a song that includes the n-word and curse words.

Brown told Indy Week that she turned the music off, apologized and offered Moneta his muffin, free of charge. He insisted on paying, she said.

Britni Brown describes her interaction with Duke Vice President for Student Affairs, Larry Moneta and how she was later fired for playing “Get Paid” by Young Dolph, during an interview on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Days later on May 8, Brown and Simmons were called into the coffee chain's Hillsborough office and both lost their jobs, they said.

A group of nearly 20 protestors marched into the offices Larry Moneta, Duke’s Vice President for Student Affairs to voice their opposition to the firing of two employees of the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop on the Duke University campus.

In an emailed statement to The News & Observer and The Duke Chronicle on Tuesday, Moneta — who did not comment for the Indy Week report — said he was "shocked" to hear lyrics he said were "quite inappropriate for a working environment that serves children among others."

Moneta was specifically concerned with a line in the song "I f----- her up real good," he wrote.

"I expressed my objections to the staff with whom I’ve always had a cordial relationship. I insisted on paying for my purchase and left the store. I then contacted the director of Duke Dining to express my concerns and that was the end of my involvement," Moneta wrote. "To those who feel that I’ve flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this: The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics."

On Brown and Simmons losing their jobs, Moneta said that was the coffee chain's choice.

"The employees who chose to play the song in a business establishment on the Duke campus made a poor decision which was conveyed to the JVG management," Moneta wrote. "How they responded to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion."

Moneta is responsible for overseeing student services including: housing, dining, health care, career services, student activities, cultural centers, and event and media services, according to the university's website.

On April 27, Moneta tweeted about freedom of speech. “Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors,” he wrote.

Moneta has been the face of the university for national media outlets including ESPN, ABC and NPR on issues from the Krzyzewskiville flu shutdown to a noose being found hanging on campus and freshman roommate requests no longer being honored.

Moneta also spoke for Duke in his role as vice president of student affairs during the Duke lacrosse case.

In 2017, Moneta wrote an op-ed for The News & Observer arguing against vandalism of Confederate statues titled “A message to students: vandalism is not activism.”

Rapper Young Dolph also has a song "In Charlotte" on his album "Bulletproof" in which he raps about allegedly dodging 100 bullets while in Charlotte during the CIAA tournament in 2017.

Update: On Wednesday, Joe Van Gogh issued an apology. Read more here.



Two black men were arrested in a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 12 for refusing to leave the store while waiting for a friend. The men had allegedly not purchased anything and tried to use the restroom.



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