Yale University Responds After Racist Dorm Incident

Photo: Craig Warga/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
After a white Yale student called campus police on a Black student for napping in a dorm's common area, the university has issued a response to the incident.
Graduate student Lolade Siyonbola, who is Black, posted a video on Facebook earlier this week of her classmate accosting her after she fell asleep while writing her final paper. Then, she posted another video in which the campus police check her ID to make sure she "belongs" at Yale. (Note that she opens her apartment to them, which is in the same Yale dorm where she fell asleep.)
Kimberly Goff-Crews, the university vice president for student life, sent an email to students on Wednesday night, writing that the predominantly white Ivy League school still has "so much more to do" to address discrimination.
Goff-Crews said that she, Yale police chief Ronnell Higgins, and Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley plan to hold listening sessions with students. The university will also continue to implement initiatives it announced last year, including "the appointment and training of dean’s designees in each school to address student concerns about equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and discrimination and harassment." Yale also recently launched the Bulldog Mobile (LiveSafe) app, through which students can anonymously connect with Yale police and the Title IX office. "As already planned, we will share this tool more broadly with students and clarify the reporting process," Goff-Crews said.
In a statement, the campus police said: "After reviewing the scene in the 12th-floor common room and seeing a computer, books, and notebooks in addition to a blanket and pillow on the couch, the investigating officer determined that the person who had been sleeping in the common room was likely a student."
Police also "informed the caller that the student who had been in the common room was an authorized resident who had every right to be there." They explained to her that this was "not a police matter" and that they will report the incident to the graduate school dean.
Some students are asking that the university take stronger measures. Amanda Joyce Hall, a Black PhD candidate, wrote a letter to Dean Cooley calling on the administration "to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for racial policing that ends in the expulsion of the aggressors." She asked that Yale ban the perpetrator from graduate student housing and from teaching undergraduates, as her racism is a threat to the school's commitment to diversity.
"We will not continue to allow our bodies to be the target of white supremacist politics of discursive hatred, intolerance, and ignorance at a university whose commitment to us is only symbolic and for the brochures," she wrote.
The Yale Daily News reported that the student antagonized another student of color in the past, who is a friend of Siyonbola's. She called the campus police when Jean-Louis Reneson arrived at the Hall of Graduate Studies, the dorm where Siyonbola lives, for a meeting. Siyonbola and Reneson filed a complaint to the university.
We have reached out to the student who allegedly called campus police and will update this story if we hear back. Her online bio says she is interested in women's rights advocacy and has a Master's in philosophy "to address the sub-human legal status of the world’s women at the source, the philosophical foundations of law."
"Personally, recent events have led me to reflect in new ways on the ordinary daily actions each of us can take to show empathy, to see and understand what others are experiencing, and to combat hate and exclusion," Yale president Peter Salovey wrote in a statement to the community. "I hope that you will do the same."
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