Lolade Siyonbola, a black graduate student in African Studies at Yale University, had the police called on her after she fell asleep in her dorm’s common area while working on a paper early Tuesday, CNN reports. After Siyonbola, 34, nodded off in the Hall of Graduate Studies, a white student entered the common area, turned on the lights, and said, “You’re not supposed to be sleeping here. I‘m going to call the police.”
Siyonbola later confronted the aggravated student, who remarked, “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room.”
After police arrived, they asked to see Siyonbola’s ID, explaining at one point, “You’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here.” During the encounter, Siyonbola said to the officers, “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.” She surrendered her ID to the authorities, and even unlocked her dorm room to prove that she was a resident there. After resolving a hiccup involving Siyonbola’s name on her ID being slightly different from her name in the student data base, police told the student she was free to go.
Siyonbola posted footage of her encounters with the indignant student and the police on social media. As seen in the screenshots above, the student who called the police takes photos of Siyonbola as she records her. In the second screenshot, the responding officers question Siyonbola about her identity before eventually informing her that she’s free to go.
Police admonished the student who called police and told her that Siyonbola had every right to be there, according to Kimberly Goff-Crews, Yale's vice president for Student Life, CNN reports. In an email to students, Goff-Crews announced that she, alongside Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley, will be hosting listening sessions with students to avoid such situations occurring in the future and to improve the university’s response to such incidents in the future, the Yale Daily News reports.
Yale officials have stood by the police’s handling of the situation, with Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart telling CNN, “We believe the Yale police who responded followed procedures. It is protocol in such circumstances for the police to ask for student (or staff) identification cards. Both students had to identify themselves.”
“As we do with every incident, we will be reviewing the call and the response of the police officers,” she added. “Our officers are professionals who take great pride in working for Yale. They are trained on unconscious bias, de-escalation techniques, and problem solving, and seek to treat each individual with respect.”
The white student who called the police has since been identified as Sarah Braasch, a grad student currently working on her fifth degree, a PhD in philosophy, the Grio reports. Braasch, who has a law degree and is a member of the New York State Bar, has spoken out against hate crime legislation in the past, writing in a 2011 blog post, “Hate crimes legislation is stupid. Seriously stupid. Abominably stupid. I hate hate crimes legislation. But, I love hate speech. Hate crimes legislation has a chilling effect on free speech and freedom of association.”
(Photo: Screenshot via Facebook/Lolade Siyonbola)