The Black Yale University student who had the cops called on her for napping is speaking out, telling ESSENCE that the school’s lackluster response to the incident has left her frustrated.
“They are keeping the response high level,” said Lolade Siyonbola. “But they are not really talking about consequences in terms of the bias training. So that is problematic for now.”
She gave the interview to ESSENCE hours before the University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews sent out a campus-wid e email on Monday evening announcing new initiatives to address the problems of inclusivity. These initiatives include training campus police to quickly identify students using their preferred or legal names and implicit bias training for graduate school students and faculty.
“For us, it’s more like what’s the swift and decisive action to show that you care about our safety,” she said of how other students of color are viewing the school’s reaction to the incident. “And they haven’t done enough to show that they are in line with that.”
According to the Yale Daily News, Siyonbola, who is an African Studies graduate student, was accosted by another graduate student after falling asleep in her dormitory common area while studying for her finals. The other student, Sarah Braasch, then called the police on Siyonbola.
“I have every right to call the police,” says Braasch in videos captured and posted by Siyonbola. “You cannot sleep in that room.”
The incident then led to an unnecessary confrontation between the police and Siyonbola, who had to endure a drawn-out process to confirm that she was an actual student and resident of the building.
Siyonbola has since called for Braasch to be expelled, telling Good Morning America that there have to be consequences and “some punitive measures for people who act out of racially motivated bias.”
The school has refused to share if any disciplinary action has been taken against Braasch, citing privacy laws.
“I don’t know if she’s been expelled or not, but I know that going back to campus in the fall and seeing her would be traumatizing,” Siyonbola told ESSENCE. “And for other students of color, seeing her freely moving about on campus would be traumatizing.”
Black students on campus have been organized, demanding the school offers clear procedures and consequences for anybody who performs any racially-motivated action.
But Siyonbola also says that how the school decides to move forward with the incident will expose what they deem important.
“As a university, they want to minimize bad press,” she says. “They want it to go away. But the strategy in doing that will tell what kind of institution it is. You can make something disappear by taking swift action, or you can make it disappear by pretending it didn’t happen.”
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