Safety update about recent campus events

The University compiled this information and frequently asked questions to provide our community with facts about current issues. This post includes details about recent activities and protests on April 30 in Polk Place. We will share updates as new information becomes available. 

University position

Carolina reiterates its long-standing commitment to protect the rights of all community members to demonstrate and protest peacefully. First Amendment law is clear that no one has a right to disrupt campus operations materially, to threaten or harass others, to shout down a speaker, or to destroy public property. 

When the encampment began on April 26, the University maintained a healthy and constructive dialogue with students and others who came to our campus to make their voices heard.  

On April 28, protesters backtracked on their commitment to not to disrupt campus operations and to comply with University policies, including re-erecting tents and other structures in the clear knowledge that this was a violation. That decision forced the University to act.    

Protesters were warned that they were violating University policies and the law and were asked to comply on multiple occasions before any detainments and arrests took place on April 30. We have been closely watching the events happening at other universities, and we have seen how these demonstrations have turned into significant disruptions and threatened the safety of everyone involved.  

We will continue to take necessary actions that promote an environment where people can teach, learn and work safely.  

Previous statements

A message from University leaders on campus protests 

Statement from Interim Chancellor Roberts and Provost Clemens on campus demonstrations 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why couldn’t the protesters stay on Polk Place?

The protesters did stay on Polk Place for four days and generally complied with University policies when requested. Beginning Sunday, April 28, the protesters, including many who are not members of the Carolina community, repeatedly and knowingly violated state law and University policies that provide for peaceful demonstrations. We must consider the safety of all our students, faculty and staff, as well as visitors to this campus. We must also assure that the campus can operate without significant disruption. 

What actions did University administrators take to engage in dialogue with the protesters?

Several University administrators engaged with the student protesters over the last several months. At the March UNC Board of Trustees meeting, after the protesters had disrupted committee meetings and the board dinner the day before,Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts invited one of the protesters to the podium. The student made remarks to the full board and returned to her seat. Later, the protesters stood in unison and interrupted the meeting in violation of University policy. They were offered meetings with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson and Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leah Cox, which they declined. On April 26, the student protesters were offered a meeting with Interim Chancellor Roberts, and they declined that meeting as well. 

What types of activities have protesters engaged in that are not peaceful?

Some of their actions have included: 

  • Blocking police vehicles during enforcement by standing in front of them and throwing large items at them.
  • Hitting police vehicles during enforcement.
  • Attempting to enter South Building by pushing police officers, banging on doors and windows.
  • Tearing down barricades on Polk Place to secure the area and using them to push at counter protesters and police.
  • Throwing full water bottles at University leaders and others.
  • Removing the American flag from the Polk Place flagpole and having a physical altercation with police officers who stood around University officials and staff working to return the American flag to its place.
  • Intimidating fellow students or other passersby who were not engaged in the protest.
  • Causing damage in Polk Place in addition to leaving a voluminous stream of trash and belongings that required a major clean-up operation.
  • Breaking in or attempting to break into academic buildings.
  • Entering classrooms during final exams to disrupt.

What University policies were violated by the protesters?

Actions by the protesters leading up to and during the events of April 30 in and around Polk Place may have violated multiple policies, including the UNC System Free Expression Policy and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Facilities Use Standard, Freedom of Speech and Expression Policy and Standard, and Policy on Demonstrative Events. These actions may also constitute violations of the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance. 

How many people were arrested?

Police detained 36 protesters after failing to abide by the University’s order to disperse from Polk Place. Thirty protesters were cited for trespassing and released on-site, including 10 current UNC-Chapel Hill students and 20 people not affiliated with the University. The remaining six were arrested and transported to the Orange County Magistrates Office. They were charged with trespassing and later released on a written promise to appear. Three of the protesters arrested are UNC-Chapel Hill students and the other three are not affiliated with the University. The Orange County District Attorney has released the names of those arrested and UNC Police will release the arrest reports as soon as they are completed.   

Have students been disciplined due to the protests?

Federal privacy laws prevent disclosure about individual student conduct cases. As standard practice, any reports of student behavior that allege violations of University policies are evaluated under the applicable conduct policy. This includes the Honor System process and, as appropriate, the Emergency Evaluation and Action Committee.   

What action has the University taken against the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine?

On May 1, due to concerns related to threat of disrupting University operations and the academic process, the University suspended the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on an interim basis while the student conduct process considers allegations of violations of University policies.   

Summary suspension of a student organization means the group may not participate in any University activities, use campus facilities, or receive funding from student fees or any other University sources.  

All UNC-Chapel Hill registered student organizations are required to comply with University policies and procedures. Students, faculty and staff are required to do their part to help promote the safety of the entire campus community.  

Why was the Campus Y building closed? When will it reopen?

The Campus Y building, along with other nearby buildings and parking lots, was closed on April 30 for safety reasons. Campus Y building hours were not observed 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.  

The Campus Y building will be reopened Monday, May 6, after Facilities Services employees are able to clean the significant debris left behind. It will now be open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekdays. We will continue to monitor the building. 

Campus Y student organizations or other student organizations housed within the building can contact Student Affairs for more information. 

Why is there fencing on Polk Place?

Polk Place was damaged by the protesters, their tents and significant debris, and they repeatedly replaced the U.S. flag with a Palestinian flag, which is akin both to shouting down a speaker and destruction of public property. The University put up temporary fencing to preserve the landscape on Polk Place and deter protesters from engaging in dangerous behavior.  

What will happen to the items collected from Polk Place?

Individuals who lost items during the April 30 activity on Polk Place were able to retrieve them on Friday, May 3, between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. in the parking lot at 130 Municipal Drive. Campus Safety personnel provided security, but no verification of ownership of personal items occurred. Individuals retrieved personal items only. Any remaining items will be discarded.