May 10 (Reuters) - Yale University’s vice president for student life said she was “deeply troubled” by an episode this week in which a white student called the police after finding a black student napping in a university common room.
In an email to students on Wednesday, Kimberly Goff-Crews said that the black student, Lolade Siyonbola, had “every right to be there” and that the university was working to address incidents of racial discrimination and harassment.
“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.
Siyonbola broadcast two cellphone videos of the episode on early Tuesday morning via social media. They have since drawn hundreds of thousands of views and angered many who see the police call as an example of how black Americans can face undue suspicion.
In the first video, Siyonbola films the student who called the police, identified by Siyonbola and the Yale Daily News as Sarah Braasch.
“I have every right to call the police,” Braasch tells Siyonbola. “You cannot sleep in that room.”
In the second video, several police officers arrive and question Siyonbola, who says she was napping while trying to finish a paper. Siyonbola, a graduate student in African studies, can be heard showing the police that she has a key to her room but hesitating before agreeing to show her Yale identification.
“I don’t understand the justification for you being here,” Siyonbola tells the officers, saying she believes the student is harassing her because she is black. “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
After about 17 minutes, the police are satisfied and leave.
Braasch, a graduate student in philosophy, did not respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday.
Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut, said the Yale police officers “admonished” Braasch for calling the police on a student who was doing nothing wrong.
Siyonbola said she has since received “incredible” support from the black community at Yale.
“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,” she wrote on Facebook.
For some, the episode evoked the arrest of two black men last month in a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia who were waiting for a friend before ordering. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)