A Black Yale Student Was Reported To Campus Police For Napping In Her Halls

Photo: Courtesy of Lolade Siyonbola's Facebook.
Lolade Siyonbola
In yet another infuriating episode of Living While Black, a white Yale University student called campus police on Black graduate student Lolade Siyonbola for napping in her dorm's common room.
Siyonbola, as she explains to police in a video she posted to Facebook, was just resting and trying to write her final paper when the woman came into the common room, turned on the lights, and started yelling, "Why are you sleeping here?"
In the first video Siyonbola posted, the woman takes photos of Siyonbola and says, "I have every right to call the police, you cannot sleep in that room." Siyonbola calmly says, "Continue. Get my good side."
When the cops arrive, one of them explains, “You’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” according to the second video.
"Let me open my apartment for you so that you can see that I belong here. I don't think there's a need for you to be here," Siyonbola responds. She then unlocks her apartment in front of them to prove that she lives there.
“I deserve to be here; I paid tuition like everybody else; I am not going to justify my existence here,” Siyonbola says while the officers take forever to check her information. “I am not going to be harassed.”
The cops assure her that they'll "get out of her hair" as soon as they check her ID against a university database and make sure she actually goes to Yale. (Note: She is in a Yale dorm the entire time.) They assure her she's not in trouble.
"My ancestors built this university. I know I'm not in trouble," she says.
After over 15 minutes of awkward, tense back-and-forth, they finally leave. It turns out, according to the police, it took this long because Siyonbola’s name was spelled wrong in the database of student information used by Yale campus police — a struggle so many people with "foreign-sounding" names are familiar with on top of an already traumatic incident of racial profiling.
As Siyonbola says in the video, the woman who called the cops on her also called them on her friend a few months ago. His "crime" was being in a stairwell while Black.
According to the Yale Daily News, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley sent out an email earlier this week to Master's and PhD students.
“Incidents like that of last night remind us of the continued work needed to make Yale a truly inclusive place," Cooley 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. An essential part of that effort must be a commitment to mutual respect and an open dialog.”
On Tuesday, Siyonbola wrote on Facebook that she's grateful for all the support she's received and welcomed other students to tell their stories of being racially profiled: "Grateful for all the love, kind words and prayers, your support has been overwhelming ?? Black Yale community is beyond incredible and is taking good care of me. I know this incident is a drop in the bucket of trauma Black folk have endured since Day 1 America, and you all have stories. Share below if you feel led. xo." The post has received over 2,300 likes and over 500 comments so far.
There has been a sad number of well-documented incidents recently in which Black people were punished simply for being in public spaces, from three men getting taken in by police in a Philadelphia Starbucks for asking to use the restroom and delaying ordering until a friend got there to police being violent with Chikesia Clemons after she asked to see the manager at a Waffle House.
Racist and otherwise discriminatory incidents on college campuses, such as students wearing blackface to frat parties and white supremacist flyers, are nothing new either. Students have called for more education, including mandatory anti-bias classes. But it's obvious that there is still a long way to go before students of colour can feel safe on campus doing the exact same things that white students do.
We've reached out to Lolade Siyonbola and the Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications and will update this story when we hear back.
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