New Haven, CT – The Yale University police officers who responded to a dormitory for a call about a black graduate student napping in a common room actually admonished the student who had called the police, according to university administrators on Thursday.
This counters the claims of racial harassment that sprung up after video of the encounter went viral (video below.)
Yale University Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said the officers told the woman who had called police to complain about the napping student that the woman had every right to be there, the Star Tribune reported.
The officers who responded to the student’s emergency call on Monday night became the recipients of intense criticism after 34-year-old Lolade Siyonbola sparked outrage by posting two videos on social media that showed officers interviewing her as she claimed that she’d been racially profiled, ABC News reported.
The incident began when a woman turned on the lights in her dormitory’s common room and found Siyonbola asleep on the couch on May 7. Then she called the university police and said the woman didn’t belong there.
When the police arrived, Siyonbola began streaming her interaction with them on Facebook Live.
Siyonbola, a graduate student in African American Studies, told police she had fallen asleep while she was writing a paper, and had been awakened by the woman she described as having mental problems, the video showed.
She told them the same woman had called police on another classmate recently when she’d found him in a stairwell.
The video showed police asking Siyonbola for her ID, and the woman argued with them about whether she had to give it to them.
“I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else,” Siyonbola told officers in the video as she drew out the encounter for 15 minutes. “I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
When she finally gave them her ID, it came up as expired when the dispatcher checked it because she didn’t use her real name on her ID.
Apparently, students can put whatever name they prefer on their actual IDs but then it doesn’t match what’s in the system when officers try to run it, Yale University told ABC News in a statement.
The woman remained uncooperative throughout her entire interaction with the officers, even after they had repeatedly explained to her that they were just making sure that she was actually a student at the university.
She told them she was trying to decide whether she wanted to show them her identification.
“I really don’t know if there’s a justification for you actually being in the building,” she told the officers.
“We’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” an officer told her.
In the video, Siyonbola complained about how long the officers were taking to confirm her identity, and an officer pointed out that she wasn’t being very helpful.
“You wouldn’t be either if you were woken up and you were harassed,” she told the officer.
The officer, who identified himself as a supervisor on the video, tried to explain that Siyonbola had told them that she and the woman hadn’t had any kind of actual verbal altercation; therefore, no actual harassment had occurred.
In the video, Siyonbola repeatedly told officers that the woman who had called the police on her had a track record of similar behavior and serious mental problems.
The supervising officer assured the angry graduate student that he would make the dean aware of the situation.
Lynn Cooley, the dean of Yale’s graduate school of arts and sciences, sent an email to students on Tuesday that said the school needed to work on becoming a “truly inclusive place.”
In her email, the dean wrote that she was “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.”
Yale University told ABC News that they were reviewing the telephone call to campus police and the officers’ response.
Police “are trained on unconscious bias, de-escalation techniques, and problem solving, and seek to treat each individual with respect,” the university’s statement read.
Watch the Yale police check Siyonbola’s ID in the video below: