- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2018

A white student at Yale University called the police on a black student she discovered sleeping in a campus common area, prompting complaints about racial bias and triggering condemnation from school officials.

Lolade Siyonbola, a 34-year-old graduate student in African Studies, was questioned by campus police for more than 15 minutes late Monday night after authorities responded to call about “somebody who appeared they weren’t … where they were supposed to be,” according to video of the encounter she shared on social media.

Footage of Ms. Siyonbola’s exchange with authorities and another video recorded moments earlier, showing her interaction with a graduate student threatening to call the police, went viral and garnered more than a million combined views upon being uploaded to her Facebook account afterwards.

“I deserve to be here; I paid tuition like everybody else; I am not going to justify my existence here,” Ms. Siyonbola told one of the police officers on video. “I am not going to be harassed.”

“You’re in a Yale building, and we need to make sure that you belong here,” one of the officers told Ms. Siyonbola.

In an email sent to graduate and professional school students Wednesday evening, Yale’s vice president for student life said she was “deeply troubled” by the incident, and that Ms. Siyonbola “had every right to be there.”

“The Yale police officers who responded spoke with both parties and subsequently admonished the complaining student that the other student had every right to be present,” Kimberly Goff-Crews wrote in the email Wednesday night.

“As Vice President for Student Life, I have worked with administrators, faculty and students to strengthen the resources available to address incidents of racial bias, discrimination and harassment,” added Ms. Goff-Crews. “This incident and others recently reported to me underscore that we have work to do to make Yale not only excellent but also inclusive.”

Yale administrators and authorities plan to hold “listening sessions” in the coming months in response, she wrote.

The dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Lynn Cooley, Ph.D., previously addressed the encounter in an email sent to students Tuesday.

“Incidents like that of last night remind us of the continued work needed to make Yale a truly inclusive place. 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. An essential part of that effort must be a commitment to mutual respect and an open dialog,” she wrote.

Ms. Siyonbola and the Yale Daily News have identified the white graduate student who allegedly notified the police as Sarah Braasch, a philosophy doctoral student, according to her profile on the university website.

“I have every right to call the police, you cannot sleep in that room,” she warned in the first video recorded by Ms. Siyonbola.

Authorities arrived moments later, and the incident was ultimately resolved after police confirmed Ms. Siyonbola’s identity and status as a student.

Ms. Braasch did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

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