Yale president Peter Salovey issued a statement on Thursday outlining actions he has taken in the wake of the Sarah Braasch incident and what he hopes happens moving forward.
Earlier this week, Black Yale grad student Lolade Siyonbola says her white neighbor, Sarah Braasch, took the extreme measure of calling the police when she fell asleep in the common area of the building where they both live.
Siyonbola uploaded two videos to Facebook. One showed Braasch filming her and telling Siyonbola that the common room is not for sleeping. The other video was of her interaction with police once they arrived.
The videos have gone viral and various Yale officials have issued statements in the aftermath. The latest to do so is Yale president Peter Salovey.
“Racism is an unqualified evil in our society. Universities are not utopias, and people of color experience racism on our campus as they do elsewhere in our country. This fact angers and disappoints me. We must neither condone nor excuse racism, prejudice, or discrimination at Yale,” he wrote.
In addition to his personal thoughts, Salovey also shared what he and other school officials have been doing to address the issue and prevent future incidents.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
I am writing today to affirm Yale’s commitment to equity and inclusion on our campus. Earlier this week, an incident took place in the Hall of Graduate Studies: one student reported another student—a student of color who resides in HGS and thus had every right to be there—to the Yale Police. During the encounter both students’ IDs were checked by police officers, and the caller was admonished for summoning the police when the other student was absolutely entitled to be in the space. Additional facts and details are available here.
Racism is an unqualified evil in our society. Universities are not utopias, and people of color experience racism on our campus as they do elsewhere in our country. This fact angers and disappoints me. We must neither condone nor excuse racism, prejudice, or discrimination at Yale. As a university community committed to creating knowledge and understanding, we reject these kinds of ignorance. We look for ways, instead, to demonstrate our shared humanity. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that empowers our students, faculty, and staff to pursue their intellectual and professional goals.
I have met and spoken with many university leaders today to address the challenges raised by the incident in HGS. Our deans, vice presidents, and others are committed to continuing the work of inclusion and finding new ways to prevent situations like this one. We have been engaged in this work for some time and have developed programs to prevent and address discrimination through education and reporting. Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews outlined some of the most recent initiatives in her statement last night. Secretary Goff-Crews, Chief of Yale Police Ronnell Higgins, and Dean of the Graduate School Lynn Cooley will hold listening sessions; times and locations will be announced soon.
They will also convene with colleagues around campus to determine how we can improve our current systems. These three individuals are incredible leaders who are fully committed to addressing discrimination and racism at Yale. They will continue to coordinate our response to this situation, and I will remain directly involved in the next steps.
Personally, recent events have led me to reflect in new ways on the ordinary daily actions each of us can take to show empathy, to see and understand what others are experiencing, and to combat hate and exclusion. I hope that you will do the same. Let’s pledge to go about our work and study at this university with the idea of making Yale a better, more welcoming, and more inclusive community. Each of us has the power to fight against prejudice and fear. I hope you will join me in doing so.
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology