A Nigerian graduate student who had fallen asleep in her Yale University dorm’s common area had to prove to police she was a student there in an interaction lasting more than 15 minutes.
Lolade Siyonbola posted two videos of the incident on Facebook alleging a ‘white’ student found her sleeping on a couch in Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies and called police officers.
Siyonbola said she was woken up by the student, Sarah Braasch, a Philosophy PhD student, who told her she was not allowed to be there and called authorities.
According to her, she was working on a paper in the Hall of Graduate Studies when she fell asleep in a common room and another female student came in, turned on the lights and told her, “You’re not supposed to be sleeping here. I’m going to call the police.”
Siyonbola pulled out her phone and recorded 54 seconds of a hallway encounter with the student, who told her, “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room.”
After some police officers arrived and began questioning her in a stairwell, Siyonbola posted 17 minutes of their encounter to Facebook Live.
When Siyonbola asked them about the complaint, one officer said, “She called us and said there’s somebody who appeared they weren’t where they were supposed to be.”
In the videos, Siyonbola told officers that the student who reported her had previously reported a black friend of hers who was in a stairwell of the building a few months ago.
She showed police she had a key to her dorm, and opened her dorm room but thereafter the officers requested an identity.
The 34-year-old graduate student in African Studies unlocked her dorm-room door in front of police to show that she lived there, but they still asked for her identity.
“We’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” the other officer told her.
An annoyed Siyonbola told the officers in one video after they asked for her identity: “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here,”
After some hesitation, she handed her ID over saying: “I really don’t know if there’s a justification for you actually being in the building,” she told the officers, adding she needs to get back to working on her paper.
Eventually after some confusion about Siyonbola’s ID, that her name did not match the name in a student database, the authorities confirmed she is a student at the school and has a right to be there.
Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the issue was that the name on Siyonbola’s ID card was her preferred name, so it did not exactly match her name in university records.
The officers in the dorm admonished the student who called police, saying Siyonbola had every right to be present, according to Kimberly Goff-Crews, Yale’s Vice President for Student Life.
Lynn Cooley, the Dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, sent an email to graduate students telling them that Siyonbola had every right to be in the building and inviting them to share their concerns about the incident.
Cooley said: “Incidents like that of last night remind us of the continued work needed to make Yale a truly inclusive place.
“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.”
Since the videos surfaced, Siyonbola said she had received “overwhelming” support.
“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 folks have endured since Day 1 America,” she wrote on Facebook.
Siyonbola’s video has more than 580,000 views, 10,000 shares and 15,000 comments, many of them protesting what people felt was a racist assumption by the white student and harassment of Siyonbola by the campus police.