The building that houses a 160-year old student organization at UNC-Chapel Hill has been “closed indefinitely” by university administrators.

The Campus Y is “committed to the pursuit of social justice through advocacy, service, innovation, and direct action” and supported student activists during this week’s on campus pro-Palestine protest.

Administrators first closed the Campus Y on April 30, when UNC-Chapel Hill went into a critical “suspended operations” condition. The university said it was canceling classes and non-mandatory operations due to the ongoing protest.

While other campus buildings resumed normal operations Wednesday, Campus Y remained closed. Later, co-presidents Sari Ghirmay-Morgan and Anant Malpani said they received an email from the university that this closure was indefinite due to ongoing security concerns.

University administrators have not publicly stated why they closed the building. The university did not reply to WUNC’s request for comment.

The university administration’s decision to close Campus Y was made without consultation from students or the university’s faculty governance office. Campus Y has existed in different iterations at UNC for 160 years, with the student arm of the organization dating back to 1963.

Ghirmay-Morgan said although the university has faced several “security concerns” in the past without shutting Campus Y down — that includes a break-in where vandalists wrote threats and racial slurs throughout the building and a recent campus shooting where a graduate student allegedly shot and killed his professor.

“In both of those incidents, the Y was not placed on emergency lockdown,” Malpani said. “So it’s very interesting that this is happening now, when the administration chose not to take that step during very serious situations in the past.”

Malpani and Ghirmay-Morgan both said they think the university’s decision is more of a punishment than protection.

“I think that the administration is aware that we support social justice,” Ghirmay-Morgan said, “that we support advocacy, that we support the right for students to have free speech and assemble. And so because we are supportive of student advocates, student demonstrators, and our community and what they stand for — I believe that the university is cracking down because of that.”

Ghirmay-Morgan said they also think the punishment is a result of Campus Y facilities, like restrooms and water fountains, being open to students and other community members on April 30. During that protest, police detained 36 people including 10 UNC-Chapel Hill students.

Now, all of the building’s doors are locked. Several students who tried to access the center on Thursday were not able to enter.

Sign from Campus Y building on May 2, 2024. UNC Chapel Hill administrators closed the building indefinitely after a series of pro-Palestine protests on campus.
Sign from Campus Y building on May 2, 2024. UNC Chapel Hill administrators closed the building indefinitely after a series of pro-Palestine protests on campus.

The Campus Y building houses several accessibility resources including a food pantry and one of the largest wheelchair accessible gathering spaces on campus.

It also houses a student-run coffee shop and all of the offices for Campus Y’s student leaders. Malpani said they’ve been told that they can’t even enter the building to collect their personal items. For some organizations within Campus Y, this includes checks from the university.

“We’ve lost financial autonomy,” Malpani said. “(We’ve lost) our ability to contribute to our community, our ability to mobilize, our ability to utilize our institution. Decades of work that’s been done to make Campus Y into the center for social justice — we’re no longer able to utilize that.”

Ghirmay-Morgan said students have lost a space to feel safe on campus.

“It really feels as if this is a targeted attack on marginalized students,” Ghirmay-Morgan said. “To make us feel uncomfortable, to make us feel unsafe in our environment, to make us feel as if we don’t belong at North Carolina.”

A student-made sign was added to the Campus Y building late Thursday morning, after it was announced university administrators were closing the building indefinitely.
A student-made sign was added to the Campus Y building late Thursday morning, after it was announced university administrators were closing the building indefinitely.

Campus Y sent out a survey to students via social media Thursday morning for them to share what the organization means to them. So far, the form has received nearly 500 responses.

Ghirmay-Morgan and Malpani said student leaders are trying to set up a meeting with interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens to share the importance of Campus Y to the community, and hopefully come to a resolution.

In the meantime, they are calling on community members to “show solidarity” with Campus Y and make their voices heard.

Late Thursday morning, a student jogged to the front entrance of the building and affixed a handmade sign near the door that said: “Yesterday’s actions by the administration are horrifying… Shame on UNC’s administration. The students are heartbroken.”

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC's higher education reporter and 2023 Fletcher Fellow, working in partnership with Open Campus.