Campus Y Reopens After Brief Closure

Less than a week after closing the Campus Y for safety reasons related to the pro-Palestine protests on campus, UNC administrators reopened the facility May 6.

In a message to the Carolina community over the weekend, University leaders said the Y would reopen and operate under revised hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Y’s hours before the closure were 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with 24-hour access via UNC One Card for members of the Y Executive Board, said Sari Ghirmay-Morgan, Campus Y co-president.

The University’s message stated the building was “initially closed on Tuesday [April 30] with other buildings in the area for safety reasons and concerns about after-hours door security. We are now cleaning a significant amount of debris and ensuring that hallways, entrances and exits are clear. We will continue to monitor the building.”

The Campus Y, which has been part of UNC for 165 years, is a department within UNC Student Affairs that provides services for student groups working on community engagement and social justice and is “the leading organization for student action, addressing issues of integration, free speech, gender equality, workers’ rights, world hunger, apartheid, and armed conflict,” according to the UNC Student Affairs website.

UNC said in a statement last week it had closed the building “indefinitely” because Campus Y did not properly observe its working hours, “and the doors were repeatedly propped open when the building was closed, despite multiple requests to ensure the doors were closed and locked, which posed a serious safety concern.”

Ghirmay-Morgan said she never saw Y doors propped open. She also said she told committee chairs the doors shouldn’t be left open, at the request of administration.

“Beyond that, the Campus Y is a space that is available to all students, and we simply cannot control the actions of every UNC student,” she said, acknowledging the doors may have been propped open.

Campus Y leaders, in an Instagram post two days after the building was closed, alleged the sudden closure of the Y was “a targeted move by the UNC administration” and “an action timed to restrict Gaza Solidarity Encampment demonstrators’ ability to use our building’s facilities for basic needs.”

Alumni and current students posted their disappointment over the University’s decision to close the Y on Instagram, Facebook and X, formerly Twitter.

On the Campus Y’s Instagram page over the weekend, Campus Y officials thanked the community for their support. “We have heard your shock and devastation over the sudden closure of the Campus Y building,” an unsigned post read. “We have also heard your confusion over the unexpected reopening of the Y. Speaking candidly, your reactions to the UNC administration have mirrored our own; however, the outpouring of love from our community has proven more powerful than these fears. It was your fervent responses and unwavering solidarity that brought about this partial reopening. Yet we are wary to call this a victory. Particularly due to the lack of information shared with us. Thirty minutes prior to the release of the university-wide email, all communication with UNC administration still asserted that the building would not be reopened anytime soon.”

Mackenzie Thomas ’13, co-president of the Campus Y from 2011–2013, posted Saturday on the Y’s Instagram page, “THE HEART OF THE UNIVERSITY. HERE TO STAY!”

Marjorie Betubiza ’11, Y co-president during her senior year, said hearing the Y had been closed was “completely devastating” for her. Betubiza said she’s appreciative  “for the step forward” but is still skeptical, “in part because it seems to be reopened under conditions that aren’t necessarily conducive for students to be able to leverage the space the way that it was intended to be leveraged.” Betubiza chaired the advocates for human rights committee when she was affiliated with the Y and said their meetings were usually held at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.

Regan Buchanan ’17, a co-president of the Y from 2016–17, said it’s “profoundly disappointing” that the University is restricting Y access. “I don’t think that it’s a genuine commitment to reopening the Y for full student engagement,” Buchanan said. “The Y meant so much to me and to my time at UNC. It brought me some of my best friends in the entire world and taught me how to be an engaged and active citizen, and I think these are things UNC should be proud of, that students are taking away these kind of skills and knowledge.”

Ghirmay-Morgan said the amended hours will prevent the Y from hosting events and wheelchair users to meet in an accessible space. She also said the reduced hours will make it harder for Y committees and the cabinet to meet.

— Laurie D. Willis ’86, with reporting by Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

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