What to Know
- A black grad student at Yale was sleeping in a common area of her campus residence when a white student called cops on her
- She posted videos of the encounter on her Facebook page, including a conversation with the white student who told her she was calling cops
- A Yale dean says the episode shows the need for efforts to make the Ivy League university "a truly inclusive place"
Yale officials have responded after a report from a black graduate student that she was harassed by police who were called when a white student found her asleep in a common area of their campus residence.
Lolade Siyonbola posted two videos of Monday's encounter on her Facebook page, including part of a conversation with the white student who told her she was calling police after finding her on a couch in the room at Yale's Hall of Graduate Studies on the New Haven campus.
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The videos show Siyonbola telling police the woman who called them suffered from mental illness and had called police several months ago on a friend who had gotten lost in a stairwell of the building.
Siyonbola, who showed police she had a key to her room and later provided them with her ID, accused the officers of harassing her.
"I deserve to be here," she said in the video. "I paid tuition like everybody else. I am not going to justify my existence here. It's not even a conversation."
Siyonbola did not immediately respond to emails and messages on social media requesting comment. She expressed gratitude Tuesday on her Facebook page for "the love, kind words and prayers" she has received.
Yale police confirmed they responded to a call around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. The caller said she was a student at the Hall of Graduate Students and said that there was a woman sleeping in the common room that she did not recognize.
According to police, responding officers met the caller, who brought them to the common room, pointed to another student and told them “This is her.” Officers then separated the two students, which is standard protocol, and tried to assess the situation.
“The officers were having a difficult time confirming the other student’s identification due to the use of a preferred name in the system that was different from the official name on the ID. The supervisor worked with dispatch and security to clear up the matter, taking down the student’s information and giving her a case number. The assessment of the ID took about 15 minutes, which is longer than usual,” read a statement from Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins.
The statement said that once officers determined that the woman was a student, they spoke to the caller and told her that the other party had the right to be there.
“They informed the caller that the student who had been in the common room was an authorized resident and had every right to be there. They also explained that this was not a police matter and were reporting the incident to the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences,” the police statement said.
Lynn Cooley, the dean of Yale's graduate school of arts and sciences, sent an email to graduate students Tuesday telling them that Siyonbola had every right to be in the building and inviting them to share their concerns about the incident.
"Incidents like that of last night remind us of the continued work needed to make Yale a truly inclusive place," she wrote. "I am committed to redoubling our efforts to build a supportive community in which all graduate students are empowered in their intellectual pursuits and professional goals within a welcoming environment."
Yale’s VP for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews also sent a letter to students, saying she was “deeply troubled” by the incident and said that she, along with Chief Higgins and Dean Cooley, will holding listening students with students going forward.
“Over the summer, I will work with administrators and student leaders to review and strategize around suggestions that we have received from faculty, staff, and students, especially with regard to improving the university’s response to incidents of discrimination and harassment. We remain committed to quickly and appropriately addressing issues of racism and bias on campus. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback on how we can improve our community together,” the letter read.
President Peter Salovey also responded to the situation in a letter to students. It read, in part:
"Racism is an unqualified evil in our society. Universities are not utopias, and people of color experience racism on our campus as they do elsewhere in our country. This fact angers and disappoints me. We must neither condone nor excuse racism, prejudice, or discrimination at Yale. As a university community committed to creating knowledge and understanding, we reject these kinds of ignorance. We look for ways, instead, to demonstrate our shared humanity."
Salovey also wrote that he met with university leaders to address the incident and that school leaders would continue to look for ways fight prejudice and create an inclusive community on campus.