The vice president of Duke University walked into a coffee house and got two employees fired for playing rap music.
University VP Offended
Larry Moneta is a regular at the Joe Van Gogh branch within the university campus where he usually gets his order of hot tea and a vegan muffin. The university executive is usually nice and cordial to the staff of the coffee house but on Friday, May 4, he had an argument with one of the baristas.
Indy Week reported that when Moneta walked into the shop, the track "Get Paid" by Young Dolph was blasting from the speakers. To those who have not heard the rap hit, it contains a number of expletives, including a line where the artist declares "Get paid, young *****."
Moneta apparently walked over to Britni Brown, an African-American woman who was behind the cash register at the time, to tell her that the song was inappropriate. While Brown was also in charge of the playlist that day, the employees use Spotify's curated playlists.
"The words, 'I'll eff you upside down,' are inappropriate," Moneta said, according to Brown.
The employee apologized and said that his order was on the house, but Moneta insisted that he pays for his meal.
Another barista, Kevin Simmons, noticed the altercation from his station where he was making coffee.
"'Harassing' is definitely the word I would use [to describe the incident]," Simmons said. "He was verbally harassing her."
Shortly after Moneta had left the shop, Brown received a call from Robbie Roberts, the owner of Joe Van Gogh, to ask about the incident. Roberts reported that Robert Coffey, the executive director of dining services at Duke University, just phoned him.
Brown, again, apologized and took responsibility for the whole incident.
On Monday, May 7, Brown and Simmons were called into the Joe Van Gogh Hillsborough office where they were asked to resign. The coffee chain's human resources department explained that because Joe Van Gogh is contracted by Duke University, they basically work for Coffey.
Brown and Simmons were offered severance package once they resigned and a glowing reference from their managers. Both were contract employees.
Larry Moneta Clarifies His Stance
Following the Indy Week report, the university executive sent an e-mail to the Duke Chronicle to answer the accusations. Moneta confirmed that the incident did happen and that he was offended by the expletives in the rap song.
"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," he explained. "I then contacted the director of Duke Dining to express my concerns and that was the end of my involvement."
He also defended his actions and insisted that he is still for self-expression. However, he found that the lyrics, specifically a line that was about the assault of a woman, was not ideal for a shop that caters to students.
Moneta further added that the decision of Roberts and Joe Van Gogh was out of his powers.
Unfortunately for Moneta, the internet has sided with Brown and Simmons. Plenty of students and alumni found the dismissal unfair and slammed the university executive.
A Duke University vice president gets two low-wage workers fired because rap lyrics he heard on a coffee shop's sound system annoy him. Guess I need a @nytopinion writer to remind me that lefty undergrads are the real threat to American higher ed. https://t.co/YqCT5KnB7j — John Edwin Mason (@johnedwinmason) May 9, 2018
What the ACTUAL FUCK, @DukeU? VP of Student Affairs harasses and then insists on firing a Black woman who works in your campus café, because he was offended by a rap song? What is WRONG with you? #FireMoneta #FireCoffey https://t.co/7vSkWRPytz — Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) May 8, 2018
High level @DukeU admin gets local coffeeshop employees fired after hearing them play a rap song he found offensive. Yet he's defended hate speech as free speech on campus. It's just not for workers I guess. Your alums are watching You better fix this. https://t.co/BEELwDI5oj — Mar Hicks (@histoftech) May 9, 2018
As a Duke alumnus, let me say that Larry Moneta has always been terrible and that now he needs to be sacked. https://t.co/rtDwoYQ95s — Jacob Remes (@jacremes) May 9, 2018