As the customer service saying goes, “The customer is always right,” but in this case, a Duke University coffee shop patron’s complaint over the choice of music ended with two employees being fired. To be fair, the music wasn’t of the elevator or smooth jazz variety that might be irritating to some customers, but rather a rap song with very inappropriate lyrics.
Duke University official Larry Moneta, the vice president for student affairs, complained to management about the rap song that was being played during his recent visit to the Joe Van Gogh shop. The song Get Paid by Young Dolph includes, among other inappropriate lyrics, (such as the n-word and cursing), the words ‘I f**ked her up real good.'” You can see why that might not have been so well received.
Moneta complained to the staff but followed it up with an email to Duke Dining director Robert Coffey. According to a report from Indy Week, the two baristas who were fired over the matter, Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons, said Get Paid had appeared on the shop’s Spotify playlist. In response to Moneta’s complaint, Brown said she told him she was sorry, turned the music off and offered to give him his muffin free of charge. He insisted on paying.
Moneta told The News & Observer that he felt he needed to take action because he was “shocked by the lyrics,” explaining: “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.”
Interestingly, people seemed to believe that Moneta’s actions were hypocritical as he had just weeks earlier supported freedom of expression on Twitter when he responded to student calls to ban hate speech.
He wrote on Twitter at the time: “To those who believe that colleges and universities should prohibit hate speech, I encourage you to read this,’ linking to a book about free speech. He added: “Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors.”
In response to those who claimed hypocrisy, however, Moneta noted: “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.”
Moneta further explained in a statement he provided to The Chronicle over the matter: “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.”
Among those who commented on the story were Duke alum, one of whom noted: “They made a mistake. Why can’t they be reprimanded and keep their jobs? That is not a fireable offense. I am a Duke alum and a donor and Duke will hear from me about this… How about a second chance folks!”