Yale University says it is “deeply disturbed” by a video showing a black student being questioned by police at the behest of a white student.
Student Sarah Braasch reportedly called Yale campus police to question student Lolade Siyonbola, whom Braasch awoke in a dormitory common room Monday.
“You’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” an officer told Siyonbola, who livestreamed the incident on Facebook.
Siyonbola’s first video shows Braasch saying, “I have every right to call the police,” as she takes smartphone photos of Siyonbola. Continuing to take photos, Braasch moves toward Siyonbola, who enters an elevator. The doors close and the video ends.
Much of the second, 17-minute video Siyonbola shot shows campus police waiting in a hallway outside her dorm room after she opened the door to show them that she lived there. She and police remained mostly quiet as police seemed to await instructions on their radios about a glitch with Siyonbola’s identification card.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Siyonbola said calmly when an officer tried to make small talk as the two stood uncomfortably in the hallway. “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
Three officers come and go in the video: a white male, an olive-skinned female and an African-American male who identified himself as a supervisor. After explaining his position, he told Siyonbola that police were “doing our job” and suggested that she be “more helpful.” It is a mildly tense moment among otherwise measured exchanges.
“This isn’t harassment,” he added.
“That’s exactly what it is,” she responded.
“I am deeply troubled by an incident that took place Monday night in the Hall of Graduate Studies,” wrote Kimberly Goff-Crews, vice president for student life, in a published letter online.
“This incident and others recently reported to me underscore that we have work to do to make Yale not only excellent but also inclusive,” Goff-Crews wrote. “I strongly believe we must strive to create an environment that values equity and justice and in which all students are empowered to pursue their personal and professional goals — environment that is diverse, intellectually challenging, and broadly welcoming.”
Goff-Crews said the student who made the call to police had been “admonished” by Yale police.
On social media, Braasch was vilified. Some commenters suggested she be removed from the university. She did not respond to media efforts to reach her.
Siyonbola is a master’s candidate in African-American studies.Braasch is a doctoral candidate in philosophy. On her Yale department page, she is described as receiving her master’s degree in philosophy “to address the sub-human legal status of the world’s women.”
“We still have so much more to do,” Goff-Crews wrote.