The Campus Y owes its origins to the YMCA and YWCA, which were established at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1860 and 1935 respectively. Their social gospel mission initiated campus services for UNC students, such as the Book Exchange and the intramural sports programs, and they challenged students to reach out to the community. The YMCA and YWCA chapters joined forces to become the Campus Y in 1963, later severing ties with the national parent organizations and their gendered, religious origins. During the early decades of the Y’s history it effectively functioned as the student union, serving as a hub for student leadership and social activism and as the leading organization for student action, addressing issues of integration, free speech, gender equality, workers’ rights, world hunger, apartheid, and armed conflict. Since the 1970s, the Campus Y has worked for social justice as a department in the Division of Student Affairs. The organization has journeyed from its origins as a young men’s Christian fellowship group, to become a pluralistic, diverse institution that champions civil and human rights not just in North Carolina but around the world.
We invite you to dig into our history through our oral history database. Launched in 2009, the Campus Y’s oral history project continues to build a lively picture of the Campus Y’s formation, evolution, and impact through interviews and recordings with alumni from the past 60 years. Aligned with Carolina’s distinguished programs in the Center for the Study of the American South and the Southern Oral History Program, the project has collected approximately 50 oral histories from former students and staff of the Y. Separately, these stories tell us that the experience of individual Y students is as varied and diverse as their backgrounds, aspirations and dreams, but taken together, they paint a picture of an institution that has tirelessly supported and guided its members in looking outward and tapping into the broader social justice movements.
If you would like to share your story, contact the Campus Y at 919-962-2333 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview.