Roughly 30 graduate students met with Yale administrators for a listening session at Warner House on Friday afternoon to voice concerns about institutional racism and demand that the University take concrete steps to address the issue. The listening session came three days after a white graduate student reported a black classmate to Yale police for sleeping in a Hall of Graduate Studies common room, an incident that has sparked controversy and conversation on campus and beyond.  

The University announced on Wednesday night that it would hold multiple listening sessions in the coming days and months in response to the incident. Friday’s session was the first, and administrators have yet to announce when they will hold the next.

At the tense two-hour listening session on Friday, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, Vice President for Human Resources & Administration Janet Lindner, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley and Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor acknowledged the administration did not yet have an actionable plan to address the issues of racism and discrimination that Tuesday’s incident brought to light.

“I don’t know what the next step is, and I’m trying to figure it out,” Goff-Crews said.

Goff-Crews added that her office is unlikely to formulate any specific next steps until after commencement on May 21, which she oversees as University Secretary.

As of Friday morning, over 700 alumni had signed a letter to University President Peter Salovey expressing dismay with the Yale Police Department’s and the University’s responses to the incident. The letter calls on University leaders and faculty to join student activists in the fight against the “racism and white supremacy” ingrained in Yale’s “legacy, its curriculum and pedagogy, its disciplinary policies” and other practices.

The letter criticizes administrators’ plan to hold listening sessions addressing the incident, saying that those sessions will do no good without additional action. The letter does not make any specific demands for policy changes.

“Days later it remains unclear exactly how, beyond listening sessions and task forces to tell us what we already know, Yale aims to take responsibility for creating a ‘welcoming environment’ for all students,” the letter reads. “We hope that you, as the president of Yale University, will take public and active responsibility for this display of racist violence, and the long history of racism at Yale, in a substantive and ongoing way.”

At the event on Friday afternoon, students demanded to know how the same student could twice call the police on black students acting entirely within their rights without facing disciplinary action from the University. The white graduate student, Sarah Braasch GRD ’20, allegedly called the police on another black graduate student in HGS in February. According to the student, Braasch accused him of being an intruder.

In response to calls for disciplinary action, Cooley outlined the University’s confidential processes to address discrimination through both informal and formal discussion, adding that the University needs to increase visibility for these processes. According to a University web page titled “President’s Procedure for Addressing Students’ Complaints of Racial or Ethnic Harassment,” a student who thinks he has been harassed on account of race or ethnic origin by a member of the Yale community can submit a complaint to the President’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Harassment.

The committee offers informal resolutions but can also conduct a review of the complaint and submit a recommendation to the University president as to whether racial or ethnic harassment occurred. If the president deems disciplinary action necessary, the case goes to an appropriate disciplinary body, such as the Yale executive committee.

Though she could not share confidential details, Cooley said the first incident was handled by Michelle Nearon, associate dean for graduate student development and diversity, and Valarie Stanley, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs. Cooley added that her office was looking into this week’s incident but that the three-day old investigation was still in its early stages.

O’Connor said that the details of the process for addressing Tuesday’s incident are confidential for legal reasons.

In response to an incident like this one, Goff-Crews said, Yale could suspend on-campus housing for the student at fault or engage in conversations with the student about improving behavior. Cooley added that the incident also raises the question of whether a graduate student found upon review to have demonstrated bias should be allowed to teach.

“The trick is to have compassion, have empathy, for the person, but hold them accountable for their behavior,” Goff-Crews said. “There’s a wide range of things you can do.”

Students also called for changes to the processes that brought four officers to the scene of the incident. Higgins conceded that the presence of two or more officers can be alarming, but he added that the department has dealt with situations in the past when lack of police response has caused problems. To address escalation in incidents like these, Goff-Crews suggested that the University would consider instituting a system for assessing situations before calling the police.

Most undergraduate students were not on campus for Friday’s listening session, since the academic semester concluded on Wednesday and residences closed the following day. Goff-Crews said she is interested in holding similar events addressing the implications of the HGS incident for undergraduates when they return to campus in August.

A change.org petition calling for Cooley and Goff-Crews to remove Braasch had garnered 514 signatures as of Friday evening.

Britton O’Daly | britton.odaly@yale.edu

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu

  • Nancy Morris

    “The trick is to have compassion, have empathy, for the person, but hold them accountable for their behavior,” Goff-Crews said. “There’s a wide range of things you can do.”

    Exactly right. Goff-Crews knows what she’s doing here. I love institutions and administrators who know what they are doing.

    • fisher burton

      But they don’t know what they’re doing as they, themselves, admit they don’t have a plan for dealing with similar racist situations, and unnecessary calling of police, in the future. Also, the trick should be having compassion with the victim, not the perpetrator, and they have shown little of that so far. When a graduate teacher shows themselves to be racist, the important element is protecting the students, not the racist

      • Chantal,HateroftheNazisandEate

        I think the compassion for Ms Siyonbola is built into the “hold them accountable for their behavior” part. Goff-Crews knows what she’s doing.

      • Lumi Sencion

        They do not know what they are doing. All the time Kim Goff Crews has been in and around Yale and academia on many levels, including former Dean of a a black
        Culture center at Yale and she still has no clue given these many issues that have come up countless times. Ask around, almost no one who works at Yale thinks this current senior admin are good leaders or managers. It’s an embarrassment and toxic to be here.

  • Ilive4rain

    Braasch should be allowed to complete her degree, although her successful defense of even the most rigorous challenge of her dissertation will be subject to future scrutiny. How her dissertation would now benefit the intellectual property of Yale at this point is questionable.

    She should NOT be allowed to teach nor to live on campus.

    In academia, one’s reputation is everything. The validity of any course which she designs, oversees, lectures, or even supports is jeopardized. Her actions have compromised her integrity, rationality and objectivity. She shouldn’t even be allowed to grade papers because any grade she confers – from an A to an F – would by default be distinctly vulnerable to challenge.

    To grant her living space on campus poses a significant liability to the university. If she were to act out again, her victim would now have enough concrete evidence of a known pattern of prejudicial and malicious behavior on her part, and negligence on the university’s part, to seek and be awarded significant damages. The university could further be held liable on a federal level for failing to protect its students’ from a known bad actor.

    • Sol G

      What basis would Yale have for doing any of this? What offense do you think Ms Braasch committed?

      • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

        How would you feel if the same thing is done to you?

        • Nancy Morris

          My neighbor called the private security service a few days ago because I stood on the public part of her driveway apron for longer than she liked. Security car pulled up while I was still standing there and the officer asked what I was doing, I explained that I live a around the block and we exchanged knowing looks about neurotic neighbors who call too much. So what? I was amused.

    • Silence Dogood

      Has there been some kind of hearing that determined any of this? If so, why doesn’t this article mention it? There is a lot of hostile vocabulary in that comment. On what basis is it justified? Do you even know what the rules are for inviting guests to HGS, for example? I don’t.

  • Lennie Small

    Under Yale rules was Mr. Reneson, who appears not to be an HGS resident, entitled to be in the HGS 12th floor common room and/or its halls unaccompanied by Ms Siyondola?

    • Lennie Small

      I meant “Siyonbola.”

      Sorry.

      • Ernest Verrett

        Braasch absolutely had the right to call the police. That is not the issue or the question. The question is whether she exercised that right in a bias fashion. Unless she also called the police each time she saw an unfamiliar Caucasian face, then I think the answer to “was this a bias act” is also “it absolutely was biased.” While Braasch has a right be biased and act on that bias within her legal rights, Yale must decide if the institution wishes to endorse that bias or repudiate it.

        I hope Yale’s response is forceful, to clearly show that this kind of bias has no place in academia.

        • Lennie Small

          Well, OK. But do you know if HGS guests in the residential part of the bilding are supposed to be accopanied by a resident? And if they are, was Ms Siyonbola violating that rule by sending an unaccompanied non-resident up to the 12th floor?

          Also, I think you are saying that if she was acting through bias the she DIDN’T have the right to call YPD. Isn’t that what you mean?

        • Silence Dogood

          Even accepting your standard and approach for the sake of the argument, how would anyone ever even hope to know or show if “she also called the police each time she saw an unfamiliar Caucasian face?” Setting aside for the moment whether that’s the correct standard, it seems flatly impossible to determine. Worse, there are many other circumstances besides “unfamiliarity” that come into play: time, whether there are other people there, the stranger’s bearing and speech, and all manner of other factors. Especially for an isolated, vulnerable woman, seeing a strange man in the room across the hall at 2:00pm is something quite different from seeing one at 2:00am, for example.

          On the other hand, if she “absolutely had the right to call the police,” as you say, and she denies acting through bias, it’s hard to see how a finding of bias could be supported. How would you propose doing that and why do you “hope Yale’s response is forceful” based on the standard for determining bias that you propose that seems impossible to use even as you formulate it? Do you think Yale might get into some serious legal difficulties doing that? Are you concerned that the approach you suggest might violate Title IX if Yale employed it, since its effect on women’s safety seems disproportionately burdened by it?

          And, by the way, this case seems unusual in another way that is not being discussed here: It concerns a call to YPD about a female. There is a lot of discussion here about race, but what do you think the number of MALE “suspects” people complain about to YPD is compared to the number of FEMALE “suspects,” overall? I have no direct information, but anecdotally it seems that YPD receives maybe 100 times as many calls to investigate “suspicious” men as women. Would such a ratio bother you? Again, that’s just an uninformed guess.

        • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

          She has a history of racism even before she came to Yale.

    • Sol G

      I don’t know for sure, but when I was a Yale undergraduate my understanding was that the residential part of HGS was open only to HGS residents and their guests. Just being a Yale grad student wasn’t enough. I don’t know what the rules regarding guests were then, and it was a while ago so the rules may have changed.

      In the residential colleges I always thought the rule was that guests were supposed to be accompanied except in dining halls and main college common rooms. But that rule (if it really was the rule) was often flaunted. And, again, times may have changed the rules.

      Whatever the HGS rule is, it’s hard to believe that a resident of HGS can just authorize a friend to have access to the HGS residential spaces. But maybe that’s OK if the friend is also a Yale student? Still, it seems odd that an HGS resident could technically authorize even another non-resident Yale student to have access to the residential part of HGS unaccompanied by the resident, including the 12th floor common room. Presumably Ms Braasch decided that Mr. Reneson was not an HGS resident because he asked her for directions. So the whole racial aspect of this incident may be a red herring. And maybe he was technically an “intruder” in some technical sense if he was not acvompanied by Ms Siyonbola, although in my opinion Ms Braasch overreacted even if she was technically within her rights.

      It seems to me (to pile one speculation on another) that if Mr Reneson was supposed to be accompanied by Ms Siyonbola, then Ms Braasch would have a pretty good argument for having a right to call YPD, even if she might better have stayed calm and taken other action. But what else could she have done? Asked for his ID? Run back to her room and locked the door?

    • Silence Dogood

      I don’t know the answer to your question, Lennie. But if guests in the residential part of HGS are required by Yale rules to be accompanied by a resident, wouldn’t Mr Reneson have been unauthorized at the time he met Ms Braasch? And if that’s the case, why would anyone say Ms Braasch was not justified in calling YPD and telling Mr Reneson “you don’t belong here?” If the rules require that guests be accompanied, then he DIDN’T belong there (although I’m sure he’s a very nice and good young man). And if residence is the key, Mr Reneson’s being a Yale grad student might not matter in determining whether his presence was authorized.

      Am I missing something here? Again, I’m not saying that the rule is that guests must be accompanied. I don’t know the rules. But wouldn’t such a rule have a rather profound effect on these considerations? Does anyone know the rules for guests ar HGS?

      Ms Braasch is an attorney. I certainly hope Yale is checking all of its own rules and regulations if anyone is considering taking any actions adverse to her.

      • Dally Saybrook

        That all seems to make sense, but while a rule would help clarify the situation, I’m not sure that one is essential. Regardless of whether there is a rule, wasn’t Siyonbola negligent and thoughtless to send an unaccompanied non-HGS-resident male who is not an HGS resident up to the 12th floor, where the only two rooms are Ms Braasch’s quarters and the suite that seems to now be a lounge and common space? How considerate of Ms Braasch’s peace of mind and sense of security was that, regardless of the existence of any official “rule?”

        It’s odd (at least to me) that there are many claims here that Ms Braasch should not have called YPD even if she had the right to do so, but instead should have been more considerate. Yet it was highly inconsiderate of Ms Siyonbola to BOTH Mr Reneson and Ms Braasch to reportedly send him up to the 12th floor unaccompanied?

      • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

        She should be expelled for bringing the university into disrepute. Is she the only attorney around. No one is above the law.

    • Jenn323

      When I lived in HGS in the 1990’s only residents of HGS were allowed in the residential portion. Not everyone living there was in the graduate school. There were also SOM, forestry and other professional students. Residents were not supposed to let non-residents in except maybe if they were accompanied. Just being a graduate or professional student certainly wasn’t sufficient to authorize access to the residential part back then.

      I haven’t a clue what the HGS rules are now.

    • mvbrown

      Difference without a distinction. Question why such a rule exists. Most likely to keep out “undesirables,” but only enforced when black people are involved.

      • Chantal,HateroftheNazisandEate

        I don’t agree. Rules matter and this one, if it exists, should make for big differences and distinctions. And it cannot be made to vanish by a wave of some unspecified and unsupported charge of illegitimacy by way of “discrimination.” If Mr Reneson was present on the 12th floor in violation of an HGS rule, that should matter.

        But that brings things back to the rules. It seems to me that there are at least two that seriously need clarification. Are HGS guests required to be accompanied by an HGS resident, and what are the rules regarding sleeping in the 12th floor common room?

        Does anyone know? And why has the YDN not investigated and answered both of these questions, which have now been asked by many people many times?

  • Sol G

    I hope that Yale is listening to Ms Braasch as well as to these students. If not, it is likely in the real world that Ms Braasch – who is a lawyer – will be suing Ms Siyonbola, Yale and others for defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious infliction of emotional distress, and maybe a whole lot more in real world Connecticut courts.

    For example, in the real world those who make videos of their unconsenting apartment house neighbors in private halls and post them on Facebook with critical comments can end up writing very big checks for invasion of privacy. And accusing someone of racist motivation without a whole lot more evidence than Ms Siyonbola had here to the police, making a video of it, and posting it on Facebook, makes awfully fertile ground for a civil defamation action. And so on. Ms Braasch has been quiet while her critics have raged. I don’t know her and I don’t know what she might do. But one should not assume she couldn’t do plenty if she so chose.

    Just keep in mind: The real world is not the world of YDN reporters or commenters or agitated Yale graduate students. And it is not a place where a disturbing argument or a huge civil judgment can be made to disappear by some student clicking the “Detected as Spam” button.

    • Chantal,HateroftheNazisandEate

      Yes, there is even a recent precedent adumbrating the difference between the two worlds. In the fantasy world of tendentious YDN reporters, sanctimonious YDN commenters and agitated social justice activists, Saifullah Khan was convicted of rape many times over on evidence clear cut and damning.

      In the real world, the Connecticut jury not only promptly acquitted Saifullah Khan after easy, minimal deliberation, but several jurors volunteered that much of the evidence presented by the prosecution in fact supported only the defense.

    • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

      Nonsense.

    • Juan Diaz

      All good points, but if she is serious about a job in academia, she will never get hired if she files a lawsuit. If she is going back to the practice of law, then it will be to her credit if she files it and wins.

  • iamhe

    All the bigotries are manifestations of a deep seated antisocial personality disorder -a psycho/social sickness -sociopathy. Yale should have a zero tolerance policy and procedure to keep this highly undesirable pathology out of campus life., It can be done…

    • Lumi Sencion

      They lack the will to take a deep dive. Surface monkey see monkey do.

  • Karen

    Good Afternoon , please explain a listening session. Thankyou

    • Lumi Sencion

      At Yale, a listening session is a way to appear to care while not hearing at all. A listening session at Yale is a lack of will. It is Yale’s go to strategy while they figure out how to micromanage everything around them for optimal damage control. While they continue implicit bias because this process serves them and then they’ll tell you all the ways they’ve listened and announce a new blue ribbon committee that’ll continue to ignore the important voices of staff and faculty and students of color right under their noses. Kim Goff Crews is an expert at ignoring people of color and anyone disenfranchised. Ice cold water runs through her veins. But Yale wanted to be expedient, not correct, not just, not listening. Goff-Crews and Burgwell Howard are the easiest ways for Yale to say it has diversity at the top! Goff-Crews is completely dreadful and everyone around her knows it and has been told countless times by others, making all of senior administration dreadful, incompetent and racist suspects. Senior admin will tell you they’ve listened to innumerable suggestions while failing to implement them after countless discussions, committees, recommendations, and real expertise, over time. They will do their dog and pony show and trot around their “successes.” Turn back the curtain and ask questions, people! What is and isn’t as it appears in their narrative?Never take their word for it. Many documents exists on the realities…

      Senior admin refuses to develop the good talent around them but they’re always scratching their heads feeling so bewildered and disappointed over the continual racial and hostile climate they created. This current senior admin especially cannot/will not take a long look in the mirror, never listening to themselves and their true lack of openness, inclusion, justice or innovation. Yale senior admin does a disservice to many talented constituents. They should feel deeply ashamed. But who am I fooling?!

    • Juan Diaz

      Are you kidding? A listening session is important to find out how those with a stake in the issue think and feel about the situation. Without one or more, I would not proceed to take any action on this type of issue. This really has to be the first step.

      • “M”

        If this was the first step, the university is already behind the proverbial eight-ball. Besides the *other* incident involving Sara Braasch that came recently to national prominence involving another friend of Ms. Siyonbola’s, which makes Ms. Braasch’s behavior look systemically racist and hardly coincidental
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GL9u1CgzIWg

        — the university was already on notice as of several YEARS ago that they had a problem with systemic racist behavior of white students abusing students who were members of historically marginalized communities on campus.

        https://jezebel.com/yales-chapter-of-sae-known-for-white-girls-only-inciden-1774539940
        https://jezebel.com/we-need-yale-to-choose-us-inside-the-racial-tensions-o-1742070334

        If they have in fact neglected the responsibility thus far to deal with these repeated situations and this is their first time even *attempting* to do so, then perhaps the university is in danger of having already breached a protective duty owed to students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. They need to be moving with all haste in these instances, and it’s more than a shame that they’re already dealing with *multiple* incidents.

        Maybe think about it that way instead (especially with a last name like “Diaz”, if that is in fact your name – people whom you resemble could be the next under repeated systemic assault from the racists on campus whose behavior has not yet been appropriately addressed and summarily curtailed).

  • SamuelRossLee

    If I were an African-American undergraduate student at Yale taking a Philosophy class and Ms. Braasch happened to be the TF for the class to which I am assigned, I would immediately walk out of that class and find another. I would not, could not trust that she would grade my work without bias.

    • terryhughes

      It has been suggested that Ms Siyonbola and perhaps other have committed civilly actionable defamation against Ms Braasch in this incident by way of the videos that have received national exposure. Assuming without admitting that is correct and Ms Siyonbola’s videos are defamatory, how much do you think the kind of reaction you describe might affect the resulting damages award against Ms Siyonbola? Can you put a dollar value on them? I can’t.

      • Peter

        The video are true, and in the United States, truth is a defense to defamation.

        • terryhughes

          Ah, no.

  • John Dingle Barry

    This entire situation is part of the black lives matters movement attempting to make Police scared to do their jobs in any situation so they can break laws without consequence.

  • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

    That racist woman should be expelled from the University or this case should go to court. Shame on you Yale for doing nothing about this. Expel her. She has a history of racism. If a Black person does this at Yale, he or she would have been expelled by now.

  • Alberto Gomez

    ..