Last week, Lolade Siyonbola, a Black Yale University student, had the cops called on her for falling asleep in a common area. Now, she is speaking out. In a recent interview with ESSENCE, Siyonbola said the school’s lackluster response to the incident has left her frustrated.
Siyonbola, an African Studies graduate student, was accosted by another grad student after falling asleep in her dormitory’s communal area while studying for her finals. The other student, Sarah Braasch, then called the police on her.
The incident 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.
“They are keeping the response high level,” said Siyonbola of the university’s response. “But they are not really talking about consequences in terms of the bias training. So that is problematic for now.”
She spoke with ESSENCE hours before the university sent out a campus-wide email on Monday announcing new initiatives to address the school’s issues with inclusivity. These initiatives include training campus police to quickly identify students using their preferred or legal names as well as 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,” Siyanbola 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.”
In the video, Braasch was unapologetic for having called the police “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room.”
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 said. “And for other students of color, seeing her freely moving about on campus [could] be traumatizing.”
A number of Black students on campus are demanding that Yale offer clear procedures and consequences for those who carry out racially-motivated actions.
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.”