A black graduate student at Yale took a nap in her dorm’s common room, and was rudely awakened when a white student called the campus police.
This is the latest episode from across the country in which the police have been called to respond to minor complaints involving people of color. Just like the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and the questioning of black Airbnb guests in California, this incident at Yale was captured on video and massively shared online.
Video Now Has 600,000 Views
The graduate student, Lolade Siyonbola, posted a 17-minute recording of her encounter with police officers who responded to the call. It has received 600,000 views as of Wednesday.
Siyonbola, 34, is earning her master’s degree in African studies. She said she had camped out in the common room to work on a “marathon of papers,” and decided to take a nap.
Around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, she said, someone came in and turned on the lights, asking: “Is there someone in here? Is there someone sleeping in here? You’re not supposed to be here.”
The woman called the police saying, “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room.”
The woman, who also lives in the dorm, reported “an unauthorized person in the common room,” said Lynn Cooley, the dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences. Ms. Cooley later addressed the episode in an email to students on Tuesday.
Several officers responded to the call.
“We need to make sure that you belong here,” a female officer says in the video.
Ms. Siyonbola produced the key to her apartment and opened the door, and the officers told her they needed to see her ID.
After she asked why, one officer said, “I don’t know anybody from anybody, so I’m here just to make sure you’re supposed to be here, make sure she’s supposed to be here, and we’ll get out of your hair.”
Ms. Siyonbola eventually handed over her ID.
But the officers struggled to verify it, and Ms. Siyonbola, growing more and more frustrated said, “I am not going to justify my existence here.”
An officer who identifies himself as a supervisor said, “We determine who is allowed to be here or who’s not allowed to be here, regardless of whether you feel you’re allowed to be here or not.”
“I hope that makes you feel powerful,”
“I hope that makes you feel powerful,” she responds.
Tom Conroy, a spokesman for the university, said on Wednesday, “We believe the Yale police who responded followed procedures. As we do with every incident, we will be reviewing the call and the response of the police officers to ensure that the proper protocol was followed, and to determine if there was anything we could have done better.”
In an email to graduate students, Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Yale’s vice president for student life, said that she was “deeply troubled” by the episode and that she and Dr. Cooley would hold listening sessions with students in the coming days.
“This incident and others recently reported to me underscore that we have work to do to make Yale not only excellent but also inclusive,” Ms. Goff-Crews said.
She also said the larger issue was that “there are not consequences to you if you call the police on an innocent person, especially if they’re black.”
Dr. Cooley said in her email that more work needed to be done “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,” she wrote.
Ms. Siyonbola said she was disappointed in the dean’s response.
“It wasn’t compassionate,” she said. “It was very high-level — like we have to do better someday, somehow.”
“This is what happens every day in America,” she added. “These things are unfortunate, they’re disappointing, they’re disheartening, but they’re not shocking anymore.”