(Reuters) - Yale University is committed to “equity and inclusion”, its president said on Thursday, after a white student called the police this week when she encountered a black student napping in a common room on campus.
Peter Salovey said the New Haven, Connecticut, university would continue to work to prevent and address discrimination through education and reporting.
“I am writing today to affirm Yale’s commitment to equity and inclusion on our campus,” he said in a statement to students and staff.
“Racism is an unqualified evil in our society. Universities are not utopias, and people of colour experience racism on our campus as they do elsewhere in our country. This fact angers and disappoints me.”
On Tuesday, a white student called the Yale police to report that a black woman whom she did not know was sleeping in a common room, the university said in a statement.
The sleeping woman was identified as Lolade Siyonbola, a graduate student in African studies, who was napping while she was trying to finish a paper, according to footage from two cellphone videos she posted on social media.
The videos have since drawn hundreds of thousands of views and angered many who see the call to police as an example of the undue suspicion black Americans can face.
For some, the episode evoked the arrest of two black men last month in a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia who were waiting for a friend before ordering.
The student who called police has been identified by Siyonbola and the Yale Daily News as Sarah Braasch, a graduate student in philosophy.
“I have every right to call the police,” Braasch tells Siyonbola in a video. “You cannot sleep in that room.”
Another video showed police officers questioning Siyonbola, who can be heard showing them that she has a key to her room but hesitating before agreeing to show her Yale identification.
“I don’t understand the justification for you being here,” Siyonbola tells the officers, saying she believes the student is harassing her because she is black.
“I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
Police “admonished” Braasch for calling the police on a student who was doing nothing wrong before they left the scene, the university said.
Braasch did not respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by David Gregorio and Clarence Fernandez