A Duke University honcho who has championed free speech in colleges was so offended by a rap song playing in an on-campus coffee shop, he made a complaint that got two baristas fired, according to a new report.
When vice president of student affairs Larry Moneta walked into coffee chain Joe Van Gogh for his regular order — hot tea and a vegan muffin — Friday, the song “Get Paid” by Young Dolph was blaring, North Carolina’s Indy Week reported.
Employees at the shop usually play music off a Spotify playlist and Britni Brown, who was working the register, was in charge of the tunes that day.
When he approached the counter, Moneta told the cashier that the song — whose titular refrain goes “Get paid, young n—a” — was inappropriate.
“The words, ‘I’ll eff you upside down’ are inappropriate,” Moneta reportedly said, though those words aren’t in the song.
Brown shut off the song immediately and offered to comp his muffin, she told the magazine. But Moneta insisted she ring him up for it.
“You need to ring me up for it right now,” he reportedly insisted.
Kevin Simmons, the other barista on duty, said he noticed Moneta was upset with his colleague.
“Harassing is definitely the word I would use,” he said. “He was verbally harassing her.”
Within 10 minutes of Moneta leaving the store, the employees received a call from the store’s owner saying Duke’s executive director of dining services, Robert Coffey, had called about the song.
On Monday, the two employees were called into the coffee shop’s offices and asked to resign.
“Joe Van Gogh is contracted by Duke University, so we essentially work for them. And they can shut us down at any point,” said Joe Van Gogh human resources employee Amanda Wiley, according to audio of the meeting obtained by Indy Week.
“Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day,” she reportedly told them.
Throughout the meeting, Wiley expressed how good both employees had been, but said that “this is coming from the university.”
Brown said she was never given any instructions as to what music she could or couldn’t play in the shop.
“When I got hired, the only thing that was expected for the music was for it to be cool music,” Brown said. “There was no training to make sure that your music was appropriate.”
Moneta declined to comment to the Indy Star, but told the Duke Chronicle that he was “shocked” to hear lyrics he found “inappropriate” playing in the coffee shop, specifically the line, “I f—-d her so good.”
“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,” he said.
Late last month, Moneta championed freedom of speech in a tweet recommending a book on the subject to “those who believe that colleges and universities should prohibit hate speech.”
“Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors,” he wrote.
But he denied to the News & Observer that he was being hypocritical.
“The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics,” he said.
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