UPDATED 5/9/18 5:45 p.m. ET: Young Dolph shared his two cents on the issue, tweeting, "Whoever that VP is, he don’t give a dam about nobody but his self... I guess he was trying to teach the students how to be selfish I guess."
See below for original story published on 5/8/18.
According to Indy Week, Moneta—the vice president for student affairs—recently walked into the campus’ Joe Van Gogh location, where he was greeted with the musical stylings of the Chicago-bred rapper. Days later, the two baristas who were on duty at the time of Moneta’s visit were canned from their jobs because of the “inappropriate” tunes.
The song that was playing was Dolph’s track “Get Paid.” When Moneta went up to the counter, he reportedly told staff member Britni Brown that the song’s lyrics were offensive. Brown, an African American, said she immediately changed the music, apologized, and offered to give Moneta his usual order—a vegan muffin and a tea—free of charge.
“No,” Brown recalled Moneta saying. “Ring me up for it.”
Kevin Simmons, the other person that was working that day, told IW that the Duke official was clearly upset with Brown. “‘Harassing’ is definitely the word I would use,” Simmons told the outlet. “He was verbally harassing her.”
Less than 10 minutes after Moneta’s visit, Brown reportedly received a phone call from the owner of Joe Van Gogh, claiming Robert Coffey, Duke’s executive director of dining services, had complained about the “inappropriate” music.
Several days later, Brown and Simmons were called into the coffee chain’s Hillsborough office and asked to resign.
IW obtained an audio recording of the meeting, in which Amanda Wiley, who works in Joe Van Gogh’s human resources department, told the former employees about Moneta and Coffey’s complaint.
“We had gotten a call from Robert Coffey of Duke saying that the VP of the university had come into the shop and that there was vulgar music playing,” Wiley said. “Joe Van Gogh is contracted by Duke University, so we essentially work for them. And they can shut us down at any point […] Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day.”
Brown expressed her shock, insisting she had no control over the music, which, according to IW, was featured on a “playlists curated by the service.” Brown also questioned why Simmons, a white man, was being fired when he had no direct interaction with Moneta.
“For to be fired because of this, it is not fair,” Brown was heard telling Wiley. “I feel like you guys were trying to cover it up as to make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color.”
Wiley responded: “This is coming from the university.”
Throughout the meeting, the former baristas were told that the company was pleased with their performance, as they had no record of workplace misconduct. Wiley also reassured Brown and Simmons—who had worked at Joe Van Gogh for about 18 months and 12 weeks, respectively—that the company would provide them with positive references.
Brown and Simmons ultimately accepted a severance package; however, neither of them are happy about the way the incident was handled.
“There are other options besides being terminated,” Brown said. “We could have just been moved to another shop. But Duke came in and took our livelihood.”
On Tuesday, Moneta wrote an email to Duke’s independent student paper The Chronicle, explaining his side of the story.
“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.
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. How they responded to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion.”