Student work records
SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION
- Creation: 1879-2010
- Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1900-1970)
- YMCA of the USA (Organization)
Language of Materials
Use of Materials:
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HISTORY OF THE STUDENT YMCA MOVEMENT
The Student Department was officially formed in 1877, and Luther Wishard was appointed by the YMCA International Committee as the first full-time secretary for student work at the national level. He served as executive secretary of the Student YMCA until 1888, when Charles K. Ober and John R. Mott assumed joint responsibility for YMCA student work. Rapid growth in the student movement followed the establishment of the department. By 1891, there were 345 college member associations and by 1900, 628 associations. The movement reached its peak in 1921 at over 730 associations comprising almost 94,000 members.
The early years of the student YMCA were characterized by an emphasis on personal religion -- evangelism, prayer meetings, and Bible study, complemented by "neighborhood work" in jails, rescue missions, and other social agencies, and devotion to the missionary cause. The nation-wide summer student conference was an important modus operandi of the student YMCA beginning with the 1886 "summer school for Bible study," directed by Dwight L. Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts. This conference also led to the formation of the Student Volunteer Movement for Missions, which served as the missionary arm of the Student YMCA.
With the tremendous growth of colleges and universities in the late 19th century, the Student YMCAs soon expanded their services to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding academic communities. The Student YMCAs pioneered much of what is now referred to as Student Services on most campuses, including student counseling, financial aid, housing services, orientation, freshman camps, international student services, and religious advisors. During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Student YMCA was strongly influenced by the Social Gospel doctrines that were prominent at the time and a corresponding shift in the view of Bible study as a means to illuminate contemporary problems. In student conferences after World War I, intense concern for social problems such as race, labor, and war dominated the agenda.
Student YMCAs reached their peak of popularity and growth in the 1920s, when there were over 700 Student YMCAs on roughly 1000 campuses in the United States. The decade was also one of increasing tension between the Student YMCA and its parent body as the students sought more control of policy-making and freedom to establish a more liberal membership basis. The tension reached a head in 1927 when the students threatened to withdraw from the YMCA movement. Ultimately, YMCA leadership agreed to grant the Student Department divisional status along with the home and foreign divisions of the YMCA National Council. The National Student Council of YMCAs, composed of students from different campus YMCAs as well as staff from the Student Department became the governing body of the Student YMCAs.
The first cooperative effort of the Student YMCA, the Council of North American Student Movements, was dissolved in 1918. In 1922, the Council of Christian Associations, essentially a cooperative effort of YMCAs and YWCAs was formed. The CCA was succeeded in 1935 by the National Intercollegiate Christian Council (NICC), which was succeeded by the National Student Council YMCA/YWCA (NSCY) in 1951. The YMCA also participated in other cooperative movements, including the World Student Christian Federation and the United Student Christian Council. Beginning in 1934, many regions of the country developed Student Christian Movements which united YMCA, YWCA, and denominational campus groups.
During the 1930s there was a lessening of tension between the parent and Student YMCAs and a renewed emphasis on evangelism and Bible study. At the same time, Student YMCAs began a slow but steady decline in numbers, going from 731 in 1920 to 594 in 1930 and 480 in 1940. This decline resulted from colleges taking over some functions formerly performed by the YMCA, increased denominational and cooperative work, and the general climate of the times. As the YMCA celebrated its centennial in 1955, the Student YMCA was still an active organization but had lost its central role in American college and university life. In 1970, the YMCA closed the Student Department. The discontinuation of direct support from the national office resulted in in a dramatic decline in the remaining Student YMCAs, with 200 student associations closing by the middle of the decade. Despite attempts to revive and expand the student YMCA movement during the 1980s and 1990s, the total number of student associations never rose above 40 after the mid-1970s.
A renewed effort to revive the student YMCA movement was undertaken starting in the mid-1970s, and the National Association for Student YMCAs was formed in 1979 as a coordinating body. Itwas active until sometime the late 1980s or early 1990s. The International Alliance of Student YMCAs was formed at the St. Louis General Assembly in 1997. By 2007 it was known as the Coalition of Campus YMCAs. By the end of the decade, however, there were only 17 campus Ys in the United States, some functioning as branches of larger metropolitan YMCAs, and by 2019 the number had shrunk to less than half a dozen.
Large portions of this history note are borrowed directly from "Guide to the Archives of the YMCA - Student Division (Record Group no. 58)," Yale University Library, Divinity Library Special Collections, compiled by Martha Lund Smalley.
Additional sources include "The University of Minnesota and the U-YMCA," University of Minnesota History Department "major paper" by Jill Elaine Jacobson (1986); "What Happened to the YMCA Student Movement," University of Minnesota student paper by Kaori Kenmotsu (1992); and C. Howard Hopkins, History of the YMCA in North America, (New York: Association Press, 1951).
90 Cubic Feet (225 boxes)
Minutes, correspondence, reports, topical files, publications, and other material documenting the work of the YMCA with students on college and university campuses in the United States and Canada. Also included are records concerning other national and international Christian student groups with which the Student YMCA worked. .
ORGANIZATION/ARRANGEMENT OF THE RECORDS
- History and Background
- General and Topical Files
- Student Field Councils
- State Records
- Governing Bodies
- Other Christian Student Groups
- Publications and Printed Material
See Detailed Description section for box listing.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Material on the Coalition of Campus YMCAs was transferred from the YMCA of the USA in 2018 by Will Weaver.
Processed by: Chan Harries, March 2006. Additional material (Y20180511) added December 2019.
Catalog Record ID number: 4734816
- Wishard, Luther D. (Luther Deloraine), 1854-1925 (Person)
- Weidensall, Robert, 1836-1922 (Person)
- Ober, Charles K. (Charles Kellogg), 1856- (Person)
- Mott, John R. (John Raleigh), 1865-1955 (Person)
- Interseminary Movement. (Organization)
- National Association of Student YMCAs. (Organization)
- National Council of Student Christian Associations. (Organization)
- National Intercollegiate Christian Council. (Organization)
- National Student Christian Federation. (Organization)
- Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland. (Organization)
- Student Volunteer Missionary Union. (Organization)
- Student Young Men's Christian Association. (Organization)
- World Student Christian Federation. (Organization)
- YMCA of the USA (Organization)
- Coalition of Campus YMCAs (Organization)
- STUDENT YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION:
- An Inventory of Its Records
- Finding aid prepared by Chan Harries and Lara Friedman-Shedlov.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note