Lolade Siyonbola, a Nigerian graduate student of Yale University, was forced to prove her identity after being reported to the police after falling asleep in her dorm’s common room.
She posted videos of the incident on Facebook, saying 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 Sarah Braasch, a philosophy PhD student, who told her she was not allowed to be there.
The graduate student said 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.
“I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room”.
Afterwards, some police officers arrived and questioned 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.”
She showed the police she had a key to her dorm and opened her room but the officers requested an identity.
“We’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” the other officer told her.
Siyonbola told the officer in one video that, “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.”
Thereafter, there was a confusion about Siyonbola’s ID, as her name did not match what was found in a student database.
Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the name on Siyonbola’s ID card was her preferred name, so it did not match her name in university records.
Following the episode, Lynn Cooley, dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, sent an email to graduate students, saying: “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 has 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.