New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Opinion: Students deserve to know why the Kimmel staircase is closed

The university’s decision to close the Grand Staircase in Kimmel last October is a nuisance for students trying to get to class.
Three+security+guards+in+blue+uniforms+congregate+in+front+of+the+Grand+Staircase+in+the+Kimmel+Center+for+University+Life.+A+barrier+is+placed+both+on+the+top+and+bottom+of+the+staircase.
Matt Petres
NYU campus safety officers guarding the Kimmel staircase on Oct. 12, 2023. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Since Oct. 12, 2023, the Grand Staircase in the Kimmel Center for University Life has been closed to students. For the last three and a half months, NYU students have had to work around this closure, often taking side entrances or back staircases just so they can do what they came to college for in the first place — go to class.

Although the university has still not commented on why the staircase was roped off, it seems like NYU may be using its common area usage policies in an attempt to restrict protests concerning the Israel-Hamas war on campus. After all, the Kimmel staircase has historically been a space for student expression, with various protests and vigils having been held there in recent years. Beyond the broader implications of the closure as a restriction of student activism, it also poses an everyday burden to students who are simply trying to get to class, the dining hall or one of the building’s many lounges. 

Kimmel as a whole is an integral part of NYU’s community — it has one of four coffee shops at the university, a dining hall and one of only two commuter lounges on the Washington Square campus. The stairs themselves used to be decorated with posters from various clubs or were crowded by NYU Welcome Leaders dancing and greeting new first-years. When open, the staircase is used most often by students going to Kimmel’s second and third floors. The second floor is home to the building’s commuter lounge and Peet’s Coffee, while the dining hall, Marketplace at Kimmel, is found on the third floor. A public space that many students used to get to class or have a meal is now closed. At a minimum, the university owes students an explanation.

The rerouting of student foot traffic to elevators and the side staircases means that both are a lot more congested than usual. Students who usually take the elevators — either because they are going to higher floors or unable to take the stairs — are now crowded by students who would typically use Kimmel’s main staircase. All students, regardless of the floor they are going to, now must wait for longer periods of time for elevators that are much more crowded. As a result, students must plan ahead to avoid being late to classes or meetings.

Closing the staircase is not only inefficient, but also means that at the start of this semester, spring admits were welcomed to Kimmel by black, NYU-branded stanchions and an empty Grand Staircase. The start of a new semester and new classes usually come with renewed energy and excitement, but the closed staircase puts a damper on what should be new beginnings. 

Kimmel’s Grand Staircase is an integral part of campus, and students need regular access to it as a part of their everyday lives. A fear of protests — if that is the reason for the staircase’s closure — is not enough to justify obstructing the path of a large part of the student body. The daily inconvenience that the closure causes for students warrants at least an explanation from the university, if not the reopening of the staircase.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Katherine Welander at [email protected].

About the Contributors
Katherine Welander, Copy Chief
Katherine Welander is a junior majoring in Art History and Anthropology. She is from the Bay Area, California and spends her free time reading, baking, wandering around art museums, playing Animal Crossing and drinking lots of iced lattes. You can find them on Instagram @kat.el3na.
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres
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